What To Do With A Bee Swarm!

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Have you ever come across a bee swarm? It can be scary, exciting, and overwhelming. What do you do?

All of us at The Grow Network do various kinds of homesteading. Nikki, our Director of Customer Success, is … among other things … a beekeeper. A few weeks ago, she shared with us that the bees from one of her hives had swarmed.

Nikki’s Story

bee-swarm

Those little brown specs are bees flying all over the place.

Nikki said, “We have 2 hives in the yard, and one decided it was going to swarm to the top of our sycamore tree in the backyard today.”

With the height of her tree and the size of the ladder, it was going to be quite an ordeal reaching them.

She decided to sacrifice her 13 year old, and sent him up the tree. She jokingly said, “I am officially okay with being shorter than my kids now!”

Her son had to rig the ladder with a tie down strap in the truck.

He used his body weight to hold the ladder straight. There wasn’t a branch to rest it on. Her other son took the cutters and took down the branches. They worked together on two separate branches.

There were so many bees that their weight broke one branch just before her son had a chance to fully cut through. This sent thousands of bees raining down on top of her.

“This hive has the potential to give us more than 100 pounds of honey this year, so we definitely didn’t want to see the bees relocate. Now, they are safe and sound in a new hive. We are re-queening the other two hives we have, and hoping to have 3 healthy and hard-working hives,” Nikki said.

It sounds like everyone is trying to settle down from the experience.

bee swarm

Nikki said she wishes she had seen Jacqueline Freeman’s presentation at the Home Grown Food Summit before she had a swarm of bees on her hands, but all worked out well.

What? You haven’t seen Jacqueline’s Home Grown Food Summit Presentation, “Gentle Ways to Collect Bee Swarms.”  She is so gentle with these little buzzing sweeties. You can still get in on this goodness, click here.

Why bees swarm

According to Jacqueline, it’s very natural for bees to swarm. Bees swarm because there is no more room for them. Their home is full of honey, pollen, and brood (baby bees).

The good thing is that healthy and successful colonies create more healthy Queens and new colonies, so it’s a good thing for a hive to swarm.

Before they swarm, the Queen is slimmed down. All of the bees have a feast and fill their bellies with honey. Two-thirds of the colony will suddenly fly into the air. One-third stays in the original hive and re-queen. Bees will only leave the hive if there are new queen cells in the hive.

The other reason that bees swarm is so the queen can increase her fertility, and sunlight does that for her.

When do bees swarm

Jacqueline says that a swarm is a big, bunch of chaos that typically takes flight in mid-spring, around mid-day. There needs to be a lot of pollen available. It also needs to be warm and windless. When they first leave the hive, they fly into the sky in a big, buzzing, whirling cloud of bees. Jacqueline’s amazed that they don’t bump into each other. The queen is hidden in the swarm, so she is well-protected.

Eventually, the bees land on some object, a branch, fence post, vine, or anything that looks like a good spot. The Queen directs the bees to gather and form a tight cluster on the object.  Jacqueline says it’s about the size of a football that is clasped to the branch. This is their resting spot for a few hours to a few days. Then, the scout bees roam around trying to find a suitable place to live.

Typically, bees that swarm are very gentle, according to Jacqueline. She said, in the hundreds of bee swarms that she has captured, she’s only been stung four times, and they were all her fault. A bee swarm is not likely to sting you.

How to catch a bee swarm

There is only one way to catch a bee swarm, according to Jacqueline…gently!

Here’s how she does it:

  1. First, take a deep breath and calm yourself. Be respectful. Let the bee swarm know what you are going to do, and how you’ll do it.
  2. Hold a catching box underneath the swarm.
  3. Give the branch a good shake. The swarm will regather in the box. Put the lid on and leave an opening, so bees can get in.
  4. Let the swarm rest for 10 to 30 minutes so as many bees as possible get in the box.

How to transfer a bee swarm to a new home

When you’re ready to transfer the bees, have your hive ready. Remove a couple of the frames to give you room. Hold the box over the new hive. Give the box a good shake so the swarm goes into their new home. Jacqueline shows you exactly how to do it in her video. Get access to it here.

 

More from Jacqueline Freeman:

Bees Need Water, Too!

 

 

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Money For Nothing: 3 Overlooked Ways Homesteaders Make Extra Cash

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Money For Nothing: 3 Overlooked Ways Homesteaders Make Extra Cash

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Whether you’re an experienced homesteader or just starting out, you quickly learn: Bills don’t pay themselves, nothing is ever a sure thing, and there is constantly something to fix. Don’t forget about your taxes — the government certainly won’t.

If you want your homestead to generate cash, or even .a profit, hard work is not enough. You must find ways to make as many aspects of your homestead as possible generate revenue.

Here are a few ideas:

1. Fly-tying material.

If you raise poultry and livestock or hunt, chances are you toss a heap of fur and feathers into the trash every time you butcher animals. You could be collecting some money instead. Many of the feathers and furs from poultry and small animals can be re-purposed as fly-tying materials, which are easily sold to fisherman who tie their own flies. Fly-fishing is a popular sport, and these materials are always in demand.

Rooster tail and neck hackles, for example, are important components of dry flies. Ring neck pheasant tail feathers are used in a variety of fishing flies, as well; peacock feathers are often used to make streamer flies. A four-inch strip of rooster tail feathers can sell for anywhere from $4-$10, which is not a bad bit of pocket change from something you would otherwise just throw away. More uncommon feathers, such as those from ring neck pheasants, are even more valuable. Some animal furs, such as the belly fur of rabbits, and the tails from deer and squirrels, also can be sold as well.

2. Goose down.

If you have a flock of geese (and really, you should have one), you no doubt enjoy the giant eggs, the fine meat, and the crazy companionship these big birds provide. But when it comes to butchering, you probably just scald and pluck them and get rid of the feathers as fast and efficiently as you can. If you are, you are throwing away a valuable, easily saved commodity: goose down.

Get Backup Electrical Power In A Convenient, Portable Briefcase!

Down feathers, generally defined as those found on the lower carcass of the goose, are important to the textile industry. Down is used as fill for expensive pillows and to make high-end comforters for beds; that expensive jacket you bought at REI is probably filled with the stuff, too. People who make items like these, especially on a small scale, are always looking for a steady supply of quality down.

Money For Nothing: 3 Overlooked Ways Homesteaders Make Extra Cash

Image source: Pixabay.com

So instead of just throwing the down feathers away, process and store them. Gather the harvested down feathers, place them in a mesh fabric bag, wash them in cold water, and then hang the bag out to dry. Once the feathers are dry, store them in a cool, dry location until you have enough to sell. A quarter pound of feathers can fetch anywhere from $6-10 online.

3. The black gold standard 

No matter how big your herd or flock is, you are probably amazed by how much manure they can produce. Whether it’s poultry, rabbits, goats or other animals, dealing with their manure is likely a part of your routine. But instead of just carting it over to the compost heap, you could be monetizing it instead.

Animal manure is often a high demand item, especially if your homestead is close enough to suburban areas. People want fresh manure to amend their soil, or to energize their compost bins. If your manure is organic, it might even sell for a premium, too.

You should let your manure, especially rabbit and chicken manures, compost for a bit. You can then bag it, load up the bed of your truck, and go sell it at the local farmers market. Better yet, post an ad on Craigslist, and let paying customers come and haul it away for you.

Parting Thoughts

The Internet makes it easier than ever to connect your homestead with customers looking for unique odds and ends. So, try these three ideas when you get a chance, or better yet, think up some new ones on your own.

How do you make cash on the homestead? Share your ideas in the section below:

 

 

 

 

7 Homesteading Jobs For Winter

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7 Homesteading Jobs For Winter For the homesteader and the remote homesteader in particular its never to early to start thinking about winter. I think it is so important to have a plan for the whole year. Its not a bad idea to put together what I like to call a Master Schedule. This will …

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How Homesteading Has Made Me A Better Wife

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How Homesteading Has Made Me A Better Wife Sometimes its a title that makes the whole thing go. This article has one such article. If you have gone through the adversity of starting and running a homestead you know it changes you. Most of the time it changes you for the better. This author has …

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Top 5 Essential Oil Picks for the Homestead

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Top 5 Essential Oil Picks for the Homestead My first experience with essential oil was using some powerful mint oil on my temples to help with a headache. Like most people from the ibuprofen world I was doing this ‘experiments’ half heartedly.  I was surprising impressed at just how effective it was. It took a …

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4 Ways Geese Can Work For YOU On The Homestead

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4 Ways Geese Can Work For YOU On The Homestead

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If you haven’t added geese to your homestead or your small family farm, then you really are missing out. These big, hardy birds are more than just livestock to be raised and harvested for a meal (although geese are delicious); they are extremely useful birds that you can put to work.

Geese can do everything, from weeding your garden to guarding your chicken flock from predators, and can provide income from the down feathers used in winter wear, pillows, and comforter blankets, as well. Here are some great ways you can put a flock of geese to work for you today.

Weeder Geese

Geese can help keep the weeds under control in your garden. They have a knack for eating grasses and other invasive plants in a garden or field, while leaving the actual crops alone. Geese often will eat weeds in a garden all day long, and well into the night when there is a full moon. They will eat weeds whether it’s sunny or raining, and also will help keep hard-to-mow places — like fencerows — weed-free, too. As a general rule, four geese can effectively work an acre of cultivated area, although more may be needed initially if the weed problem is severe. While all goose breeds can act as weeders, typically the more active African or white Chinese geese are used in this role.

Guard Geese

4 Ways Geese Can Work For YOU On The Homestead

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Geese make surprisingly good guard animals on the homestead. They can help protect your other poultry against predators, as most geese will hold their own against smaller predators like possums, skunks, raccoons, or the occasional wandering dog while sounding an alarm. Some geese can be exceptionally loud, and will make a racket any time they sense something is awry on the homestead.

Diatomaceous Earth: The All-Natural Livestock De-Wormer!

While some homesteaders (and their neighbors) may not appreciate this, others may want an early warning in case something unusual is afoot. The ancient Romans used geese as guards, and even the U.S. military has recently used geese to patrol its overseas bases.

Down Geese

Beyond meat and egg production, domestic geese also are valued for their fine feathers, commonly called down. Down is valued as a component of high-end products, such as winter jackets, pillows and comforter blankets. While the price of down fluctuates, prices of $16-$20 for one-fourth pound of this material are relatively common. Approximately 20 percent of the feathers on an average goose can be considered down; the larger, coarser feathers on the backs and wings of geese cannot be used in down products. Nine to 12 domestic geese will generally yield enough down to make a single pillow. Although you will not necessarily be able to quit your day job harvesting down from a modest flock of geese, you can nonetheless get money from the down feathers of the birds you slaughter, something your other poultry won’t be able to match.

Show Geese

Having animals to showcase at 4-H clubs and county fairs is a great way to draw attention to your small farm (and perhaps attract new customers), but it can be expensive to raise larger animals for such purposes on a modest homestead. Geese, however, are super hardy, and extremely easy to raise; as noted earlier, you can feed them simply by letting them loose on the weeds in your garden beds. And geese are popular attractions at these events. A giant, handsome dewlap Toulouse goose, for example, often can tip the scales at 25 pounds or more, and will almost certainly generate excitement at any exhibition or competition. Geese that consistently win at county fairs and 4-H shows will often be sought out as breeders, and selling goslings that come from champion bloodlines can be lucrative, too.

Have you ever owned geese? What would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

30 Skills to Build While You’re Homestead Dreaming

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When the homestead bug first hit us we were already living on a couple of acres and could dive right in, but that’s not the case for so many who are feeling that pull to simple country living.

You may not realize it, but that is a great time to start building homestead skills- even if you’re in the middle of the city!

There are so many different homesteading, “self-sufficient” skills that I would love to learn but since learning takes time, something which is more precious than gold to me, I’m unable to gain, practice, and perfect that knowledge. Use this time when you don’t have farm chores or a bumper harvest to put up to slowly work toward gaining those skills that will be so beneficial to you when you do finally make it to your piece of land!

30 Skills to Build While You’re Homestead Dreaming

1.) Freshly Mill Your Own Whole Grains

Depending on where you live, storage issues for large quantities of whole grains or freshly milled flours might be a challenge, there’s nothing that says you have to grind whole grains 50 pounds at a time. Even grinding grains a few pounds at a time and storing the extra in a gallon bag in the freezer will make the most nutritious, high-quality flour you can bake with.

 

                                       READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

 

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They’re The Hardiest, Most Self-Sufficient Poultry You Can Own …

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They're The Hardiest, Most Self-Sufficient Poultry You Can Own ...

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Whether you are a seasoned homesteader or are just starting out with a garden and some chickens, you should consider adding geese to the mix.

Geese are the hardiest, most self-sufficient of all poultry, and are extremely useful to have roaming around the pasture. They also are relatively easy to care for. Geese make great guard animals, and it is genuinely entertaining to just sit there in the afternoon and watch their antics; the expression “silly goose” is indeed grounded in fact.

So, if you are considering adding a few geese to the homestead, here are some facts to get you started.

A Big, Useful Bird

There are several breeds of domestic geese, with the larger varieties tipping the scales at 25-30 pounds. A more common weight range for typical market geese is 12-16 pounds, however. Although not common table fare these days, geese were prized years ago and eaten on special occasions. The Cratchits in A Christmas Carol had prepared a roasted goose for Christmas dinner, just before a reformed Ebenezer Scrooge surprised them all by buying a large turkey instead. Scrooge notwithstanding, geese have a rich, unique flavor, and a typical goose carcass will yield over 60 percent of usable meat, which is impressive for a bird so large.

Many geese are prolific layers, and some can produce up to 50-60 eggs per year. Goose eggs are roughly twice the size of chicken eggs, with a higher yolk-to-egg white ratio. They are prized in baking, and their enormous size makes them a popular novelty at many farmers’ markets. Fertile goose eggs for incubation are in-demand items, too.

Diatomaceous Earth: The All-Natural Livestock De-Wormer!

Goose down and fine feathers are also valuable. The down, especially, is used in the garment industry; your high-end pillows or expensive winter jackets are likely filled with the stuff. Finally, geese are great guard animals. They are fearless, and can hold their own against many common barnyard predators, or sound the alarm when they sense that anything is amiss.

Taking Care of Your Flock

They're The Hardiest, Most Self-Sufficient Poultry You Can Own ...

Image source: Pixabay.com

Baby geese, or goslings, can be reared in a brooder like most other poultry. However, they grow fast, and are ready to head out to the pasture much quicker than many other birds. Start your day-old goslings in the brooder at 85 to 90 degrees, and reduce the temperature five to 10 degrees each week, until you reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit. At that point, your goslings are ready to venture outside. Goslings and young geese can be fed chick-starter in standard feeders, after which a cracked grain supplement will suffice. They also need plenty of water. Fortifying the chick starter with brewer’s yeast can help ensure your goslings get enough niacin and develop sturdy legs to carry their heavy bodies later.

Adult geese are relatively easy to take care of, especially when compared to other poultry. On a homestead, leaving them to graze a fenced-in yard or pasture is an ideal option. Although they won’t gain weight as fast as they would in confined, intensive production, they still will grow just fine, will serve as a guard force, and generally will be more content. While some people provide geese supplemental grains, many people rely on grazing alone and are successful. A typical acre of grass or pasture can easily support a flock of two to three dozen birds.

Geese are extremely cold-hardy. In the Atlantic region or southern United States, no real shelter is needed. Even in colder climates, a simple three-sided barn enclosure or shed with bed-down hay will suffice. Geese do extremely well in mixed flocks, although they can be aggressive when protecting eggs or goslings. However, they generally do not like to be confined in chicken coops at night, and prefer to simply sleep outside.

You don’t need a lake or pond to keep geese, either. Although the birds love water, don’t sweat it if you don’t have any such features in your back yard. Buy a trough, or a kiddie pool, and put enough water in it so that they can bathe themselves, they will love it. Make sure you clean the pool or trough out every few days, however; geese can make a mess of a small pool really fast.

Parting Thoughts

Geese are efficient, useful, entertaining birds that can help round out your homestead. They are easy to care for, fun to watch, and can provide an excellent return on a relatively modest investment. So, do a little more research, and then get your flock started right away.

Do you own geese? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

 

56 Essential Items for A New Homesteader

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56 Essential Items for A New Homesteader Starting a new homestead, especially as someone who has been living in the city the whole life, takes a huge amount of courage. It’s not easy, mentally and physically. But that’s not the only thing you need. Realistically, you’ll also need tools, equipment, and supplies to help you live …

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5 Questions to Ask Yourself When Purchasing Your First Homestead

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Buying your first homestead is an exciting time in your life. The excitement can sometimes mean not being thorough and acting upon impulse just to have a place of your own.

It is important to take your time and make sure that you get the place you desire, that you will live at for years to come. When deciding to purchase your first homestead, here is a checklist of things to consider.

Things to Consider when Moving Into Your First Homestead:

1. What Your Needs REALLY Are

My husband and I are currently on the quest to purchase our first homestead. We have been on this quest for over a year. The thing is, we know what we really need.

We need acreage. Enough so that he can have a large shop, plus the girls and I want a “she shed” that will double as a cabin when our relatives come to stay. Not to mention next to our “she shed” will be a place for our animals and our garden.

We also desire an outdoor kitchen and a little bit more land to just have.

That being said, we have some things that are negotiable. Husband wants a lot of trees so out homestead will not be as visible; however, much of rural Texas still has dirt roads. This means we could be very remote on an acreage with no large trees yet still be remote enough no one will know we are there.

Knowing that we desire all of this means that the beautiful, large, not-yet-finished house on one acre is not going to work. It doesn’t matter how pretty the house is, it is not feasible for our needs.

Another consideration that my husband and I have discussed, is the inability to go to the grocery store all the time. Where we live right now puts us nearby four Walmarts- all within ten miles of the house. How are we going to handle not being able to run to the store when we move away?

I will say, that is something I am actually looking forward to.

Likewise, it is important that you sit down and take inventory of absolute musts and things that are a bit more negotiable. If the house is not the one, don’t worry- the one will come.

2. Finances

When talking about finances, you need to look at your home purchase in two different manners: incoming and outgoing.

Incoming is questioning what it will do to the finances you have coming in. Do you currently work in the city? If you are a farmer and attend the local farmer’s markets, how far away is the nearest one?

Essentially, how far away is the home from your work or how do you bring money into the home? Think about the expense on gas and wear and tear on your vehicle.

Outgoing is how much you plan to spend on the homestead we just talked about in step one.

Part of why we have not found the home we desire is because our money is not in alignment. We have saved enough to purchase a house outright; however, that house is probably not going to be the house we desire for our homestead. Another year and we will be better off.

If you plan to take out a loan, I recommend finding out from your mortgage broker how much you can get approved for and make sure that it is in your budget as well.

For many loans, there is a possibility that they will approve you for more than you need. If that is the case, I recommend sitting down and looking at your finances as well as looking at your list of needs and negotiables.

You might also consider a home that needs some fixing. For example, the yellow house I mentioned above went into foreclosure while the original owners were building it. The house costs $64,000 and needs about $40,000 to finish it out (there is no kitchen, no appliances in the bathrooms, etc). Once done, the house that cost $100,000 would easily be worth $300,000.

But that means having another chunk of cash available to throw towards the house.

And if you’re interested in how much a tiny house costs, you have come to the right place!

I guess what I am trying to say here is don’t get yourself into so much debt that you end up over your head. Be thoughtful about your finances on such an important decision!

3. Your Neighbors

Your neighbors don’t have to be your best friends but you need to get to know them for a start. Living rurally, this becomes important and I can give you a great example.

A friend of mine lives on a 1,500-acre ranch. Obviously, this means his neighbors are several miles down the road. Yet they work together sometimes, on one rancher’s “day off” they will help their neighbor and vice versa.

Today the friend was at the back of the acreage working on bailing hay. His neighbor called and said that someone in a red vehicle drove into their driveway and stole their dog. My friend told their neighbor to stay on the car. Neighbor followed, while my friend got in his car and drove over 100 mph, finally catching up to their neighbor.

Thankfully, the dog was rescued and the thief went to jail. But my friend wouldn’t have known had he not been at least cordial to his neighbors!

Going back on the story a bit though- if you are moving from one city to another, please note that sometimes it takes a while to be trusted.

Many small areas have families who have lived in that area several generations and a newcomer is a bit scary to them. Just take a deep breath and put your best foot forward. They are sure to love you!

4. Zoning Restrictions or HOAs

The very first placed that we looked at was five wooded acres in a lake front community. We would have the five acres plus a piece of land right off the lake that was below flood range so we could not put a home on the site. It was amazing.

Although the real estate agent told us that having a beehive would not be a problem because we’d be so far into the acerage no one would notice, there were other concerns. For example, my husband would not be able to shoot his guns.

Why were there restrictions such as this? Because the new development was a part of a homeowners association, or HOA.

It’s important to find these things out before purchasing a home because there are things that you will want to do on your property or to your property.

Even without an HOA, it’s possible for there to be zoning restrictions that would prohibit you from being able to add more outbuildings or something of this sort.

Do your research and ask around before committing to your first homestead.

5. Roads and Phone Service

While for many, not having internet or cable is okay with them.

But what about phone service? Despite the fact that we live in the state with the most growth (four of the top ten fastest growing cities in the US belong to Texas), many rural roads between Dallas and Waco have no phone service.

We both make sure to look at our phones while we are house hunting.

Roads might seem like they should be a non-issue but consider if you only have one way in and out and a bad storm blows trees over. You are now stuck at home for what could be several days.

Many of us are prepared for this but it is still a very nerve racking issue, especially if there is no service at your home.

 ! Saving our forefathers ways starts with people like you and me actually relearning these skills and putting them to use to live better lives through good times and bad. Our answers on these lost skills comes straight from the source, from old forgotten classic books written by past generations, and from first hand witness accounts from the past few hundred years. Aside from a precious few who have gone out of their way to learn basic survival skills, most of us today would be utterly hopeless if we were plopped in the middle of a forest or jungle and suddenly forced to fend for ourselves using only the resources around us. To our ancient ancestors, we’d appear as helpless as babies. In short, our forefathers lived more simply than most people today are willing to live and that is why they survived with no grocery store, no cheap oil, no cars, no electricity, and no running water. Just like our forefathers used to do, The Lost Ways Book teaches you how you can survive in the worst-case scenario with the minimum resources available. It comes as a step-by-step guide accompanied by pictures and teaches you how to use basic ingredients to make super-food for your loved ones. Watch the video HERE.

 

Source : morningchores.com

 

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7 Clever Ways To Teach Kids (As Young As 2) To Work

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7 Ways To Teach Kids (As Young As 2) To Work

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Believe it or not, children as young as two years old can begin contributing to work around the house and homestead, and there are a lot of good reasons to get started this early.

Giving children tasks inside and outside the home will support their learning and development and give them practical skills. As they contribute, they will gain confidence in their abilities and be willing to take on more responsibility. They will learn how to solve problems and become more grateful for the work that goes into keeping them safe, comfortable and fed. It’s easy to find ways for them to help.

1. Make a game of it. Mary Poppins would agree. Anything can be made easier if it is made fun. If you challenge your child to sort, tidy or clean an area according to a particular set of rules, you can make it seem like play. There’s no need to go over the top on this; kids have a natural sense of duty and also a natural tendency to make play out of work.

2. Be patient. At first, the chores will take a little longer as you teach the steps to your young child. Bear in mind that kids have to learn what adults have internalized; for example, it might make more sense to a young kid to eat berries as they pick them, rather than put them in the bucket. Try to think like a kid as you explain the chore: Get down on their level, break the task into small steps and remember to look for the fun in it.

Heirloom Audio: Christian Heroes For Christian Kids

3. Work at kid-level. One trick to help kids do more chores indoors and outdoors is to have a special kid-friendly set-up for the chores they are expected to accomplish. If your two-year-old is sorting laundry for the wash, it might help to have a white basket and a dark basket, for example. Storing the supplies at kid level, or having stools to help kids reach, will ensure they will be willing to do more chores.

4. Give lots of positive feedback. Adults know they are supposed to help out, but kids are still learning. Don’t be afraid to cheer and carry on when your child successfully completes a task on their own, especially the first time. As kids get older, give them more responsibility and tell them how what they are doing is contributing to the livelihood of the family. Make your children responsible for a portion of the homestead, piece by piece; they will take ownership of it and their pride in their work will grow.

7 Ways To Teach Kids (As Young As 2) To Work

Image source: Pixabay.com

5. Expect mistakes. As they learn, your children will break things, spill things, forget to finish tasks, leave supplies lying around and worse. This is part of learning. If you are choosing chores that your child can accomplish, the damage won’t be too bad (what’s a broken egg from time to time?). Talk to them about what they can do to avoid the mistake next time, see if you can help make the task work better for them and offer reassurance. Never lose your temper – or that may be the end of that chore for a good long time.

6. Keep kids safe. As with all things, teach young children how to do the task correctly and safely. Consider which hazards your child will be exposed to in the environment where they are working, and either move dangerous items out of reach or supervise your child to minimize the risk. Don’t expose children to unnecessary risk; instead, let them see you working safely and taking precautions so that when their turn comes they won’t eschew safety equipment or measures. Children under five should be supervised at all time, especially around water, vehicles and farming equipment.

7. Be realistic. First and foremost, don’t expect your child to accomplish a task that is too difficult for their developmental level. Below you can find a chart recommending the type of chores appropriate for young children; your child and the needs of your homestead may be different, but this will give you a jump start. Before you know it, your child will be contributing to the household and the community regularly and with enthusiasm, because you have been teaching the necessary skills all along.

Starter Chores

Very Young Children (Ages 2 – 5) Young Children (Ages 5 – 7)
Always under supervision, they can:

  • Make beds
  • Sort laundry
  • Match socks
  • Wipe tables and counters
  • Sweep outdoors
  • Wash the car
  • Feed animals
  • Tidy playthings
  • Collect yard debris
  • Dust
  • Wash windows
  • Clean up spills
  • Clear table
  • Help with planting
  • Water plants
  • Help with harvest

 

Everything in the earlier list and:

  • Sort supplies (buttons, screws, cutlery)
  • Prepare food (such as shelling peas)
  • Weed the garden
  • Fold laundry
  • Sweep indoors with a dustpan
  • Set the table
  • Help younger children
  • Vacuum
  • Put away laundry
  • Brush animals
  • Clean trashcans
  • Light cleaning in bathroom
  • Collect eggs
  • Rake leaves
  • Carry loads, load a wheelbarrow
  • Composting food scraps

 

How do you gets kids involved in work? Share your tips in the section below:  

Old-Time Methods Vs. New Technology — How To Choose?

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Old-Time Methods Vs. New Technology -- How To Choose?

The 21st century is an excellent time to be a homesteader. We have the best of both worlds, able to both draw from the wisdom of antiquity and still make use of cutting-edge technology.

Homesteaders today have the opportunity to raise our own food and provide for our own needs in the same ways our ancestors did — but unlike them, we are not completely dependent upon our success at raising crops and keeping livestock and harvesting firewood.

If severe weather, illness, family emergency, or other unfortunate events occur, it is not likely to result in the same level of crisis it would have for our forebears. If wildlife destroys the vegetable garden or a hog dies of disease or a cow goes dry, it probably does not create a risk of starving to death for most homesteaders today. And if an exceptionally cold winter empties the woodshed before spring, most of us are able to find an alternative that will keep us from freezing.

Modern homesteaders are fortunate to have an abundance of technology and skills available, but there is so much to choose from that it can be challenging to know when to lean one direction and when to lean the other. It is possible to achieve a nice equilibrium between the world of the past and the world of the present and future, and enjoy both eras by embracing the ability to choose.

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It is helpful to think of new technology and old-time methods as a continuum with many possibilities in the gray area between the two ends, rather than simply a black-and-white view of all one or all the other. Locking ourselves into a rigid set of parameters reduces our ability to appreciate the best of both worlds. Instead, it is valuable to pick and choose, leaning further toward one end or the other in different aspects.

Old-Time Methods Vs. New Technology -- How To Choose?

Image source: Pixabay.com

To do this, we need to first think about what made us become homesteaders in the first place. While self-sufficiency is the baseline definition for the lifestyle, there are a variety of reasons that we chose it. For some, it’s about resource conservation and planet preservation. For others, health and food sovereignty are key. Other reasons include saving money, honoring tradition, being prepared for a world where modern technology and resources might become less accessible, the desire to treat animals humanely, or for the intrinsic value of the skills themselves.

You may not be able to consider yourself a homesteader unless you raise meat animals, or make cheese, or heat with renewable fuels, or live completely off the electric grid. On the other hand, the thing that makes you feel like a homesteader might be nothing more than raising and canning your own tomatoes and keeping a couple of laying hens. Whatever it is you do that makes you a homesteader in your eyes, focus on that first.

If it is about having your own fresh eggs, for example, then do what it takes to make that happen and give yourself permission for guilt-free vegetable purchases at the grocery store. If your reason for homesteading is to reduce your carbon footprint, then it may be more important to live in a small home and practice diligent waste reduction than to raise dairy goats.

Another way to bring old-fashioned practices and modern technology together is to toggle back and forth depending upon the season. You can make butter when the milk is abundant and rich, but plan on buying it during parts of the year, or use your wood stove for heat and cooking in colder months but switch to other fuels during summer.

Modern technology is great, but bear in mind the importance of not becoming reliant upon it. Online recipes and GPS are great, yet it’s wise to maintain some access to hardcopy recipes and know how to use a map. Just in case. Most people store phone numbers and contacts in their phones and tablets, but it is useful to have some way to access the information we need in another format. Again, just in case. Remember that if homesteading is about self-sufficiency, it is counterproductive to be overly dependent on tools of any kind.

In combining modern technology and old-fashioned ways, the absolute litmus test must be this:  Who or what is in charge? Make sure you own your technology, rather than the other way around. Go ahead and use modern technology when it serves you, but be careful that you do not end up serving it. When the latest electronic gadget enhances your ability to accomplish homesteading in the way that is most meaningful to you, use it. But if it takes away from your goals or raison d’etre, let it go.

As long as we use the best and leave the rest from both ends of the spectrum, we can effectively meld the best of antiquity and the best of today’s technology in a way that allows us to maximize our homesteading enjoyment and success.

What do you think? Share your thoughts on balancing new technology and old-time methods in the section below:

9 Smart Ways To Stay Safe Around Livestock

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9 Smart Ways To Stay Safe Around Livestock

Image source: Pixabay.com

No matter how long you’ve been around farm animals, and even though you consider many of them as pets, there always will be times when they’ll behave unpredictably. A sudden movement, a loud and strange noise, or even just the scent of a female animal in heat, picked up by a male, can elicit the most erratic behavior – endangering even the seasoned homesteader.

It’s always wise to make safety a priority. Who wants to be accidentally stepped on, knocked over, kicked, bitten, squished, head-butted or thrown off a large animal just because it got spooked, stressed out or over-excited by something? Sprains, bumps, bruises, bites, abrasions and all kinds of injuries can be avoided if precautionary measures are taken when working around livestock.

Every animal tends to have its own temperament above and beyond its breed characteristics, gender, size and training. It also tends to be irritable and aggressive when it’s hurt, isolated from the herd or brought to new surroundings. Mothers are extra protective when with their young, while males are particularly excitable when it’s mating season.

It’s best to approach each animal with care — especially if children, elderly, strangers or inexperienced guests and neighbors are around.

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Here are a few tips to help you:

1. Always handle animals in a calm, non-threatening way. Approach them deliberately from the side where they can see you, but not directly from the front which they can misinterpret as aggression. Make it a habit to announce your arrival by calling or talking to them. Work calmly and confidently around large animals. They can sense the stress, anger and nervousness of humans, and that could make them uncomfortable, too. When milking, grooming or handling, touch them first on their front or side. Most animals have a wide range of view, but they have a blind spot around the rear. Touching them suddenly in the hindquarters could give them a jolt. This is especially true when dealing with young or spooky horses. Stay close to your fidgety animal, keeping your hand on its body as you move around it, and speak to it so it knows where you are the whole time. When milking or trimming goats’ hooves, keep your face away from its legs. Goats are known to kick in all directions; whereas horses and mules kick out to the back, and cows to the front and sides. In all cases, keep out of their kicking zones.

2. Don’t put your face or head directly over an animal’s head. When petting or handling them, keep your head to the side. Bucks and rams, especially, may head-butt even their owners – usually for play and excitement. And don’t ever trust a bull — even a sitting bull. If you lean over them, you could get a bruised chin or worse, a broken nose. (Be sure to de-horn your goats and cattle.)

3. Always open the gate inwardly, not out, when entering a pen or corral. This would prevent the quick, sly little ones from escaping.

4. Always have an escape path. Many injuries involve livestock being startled and pinning their handlers against a hard surface. When working with large animals, always have a way out, especially in closed quarters.

5. Don’t wrap the lead rope around your hand when walking an animal bigger and stronger than yourself. If it bolts, the noose would tighten around your hand and you’ll get jerked and dragged along. Simply holding the rope firmly so it doesn’t slip from your hand should suffice.

6. Don’t put your fingers inside a goat’s mouth. Even though they don’t have upper teeth and don’t bite on purpose, sticking a finger in there to check the inside of their mouth or steal a cud could hurt you. The teeth on a goat’s lower gums are very sharp, able to snap off tree branches and peel bark off trees easily.

7. Wear protective clothing. Long-sleeved shirts and pants, gloves, boots. When working around cattle and horses, steel-toed boots are recommended. Ordinary leather or worse, running shoes, are no match to heavy horse hooves! Additionally, it won’t hurt to wear a helmet and shin guards when riding horses.

8. Keep facilities and equipment well-maintained. Make sure gates are swinging, hinges are greased, latches are working, and animal restraining gear are available. Keep walkways and work areas dry, tidy and free from tripping, falling and slipping hazards.

9. Wash hands and remove soiled clothing after handling livestock. People can catch diseases, like rabies and ringworm, from animals. If your animals show signs of illness, treat it promptly and monitor it closely. It pays to familiarize yourself with symptoms of common diseases. Remember to wear disposable rubber gloves when working with sick animals. And if they die, be sure to dispose of them properly and to disinfect possible contaminated areas. Always practice good sanitation and hygiene. If you have a cut or a wound, keep it covered while working with animals.

What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below: 

References:

  • http://nasdonline.org/44/d001612/handling-farm-animals-safely.html
  • https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/farm-safety-handling-animals
  • ipmnet.org/tim/Farm_Safety/Farm_Safety_Tip_-_Livestock_Safety.pdf
  • http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/10-simple-ways-to-keep-you-safe-on-your-farm-zbcz1605

How To Be A Successful Homesteader

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 How To Be A Successful Homesteader Any article with that broad of title has to have at least a few great sentiments. When I started into this article I wasn’t sure if it would be a paint by numbers style article or something else. In my head I was envisioning a step by step breakdown …

Continue reading »

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Gender Roles On The Homestead: What’s The Right Way To Do It?

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Gender Roles On The Homestead: What’s The Right Way To Do It?

Is it women’s work, or is it men’s work? From the outside looking in, it might be easy to assume that gender roles are frequently assigned to homestead tasks. It makes sense that people might think that, because homesteading requires a lot of specialized skills that many modern American occupations and lifestyles do not. And Hollywood has not helped dispel that image—I mean, who ever saw John Wayne baking cookies, right?

A lot of people picture the heavy lifting and icky stuff as male-only jobs, and the kitchen chores done by exclusively females. And on some homesteads, that is the case. But on many 21st-century homesteads—and I daresay on many homesteads in past centuries, as well—the question of who does what is more about skills, timing and necessity than anything else.

There is no wrong answer to the question of gender roles on the homestead. I’ve encountered couples and families who divide up work around the home and farm according to strict gender lines, and it works well for them. The men and boys work in the fields and forest and accomplish all things mechanical and dirty, while the women and girls keep food on the table and the home tidy and the children tended.

Other homesteads are anything but traditional. Many women work outside the home, providing financial security and access to health insurance with regular off-homestead jobs, and many men stay home to take care of kids, wash dishes, tend baby chicks, tend the garden, mow the lawn, and do errands. This system works great, too.

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Most homesteads nowadays, however, seem to be an amalgamation of both traditional and non-traditional in most ways, not the least of which is who does what when it comes to chores and projects.

It is not uncommon to find a setup where she bakes bread and milks goats and drives the tractor and plucks chickens, while he goes to the kids’ baseball games and fixes the TV antenna and splits firewood and cans tomatoes. At my house, I’m in charge of livestock and my husband focuses on the vegetable garden. Some market gardeners I once met divide things up this way:  she grows crops in one field using a tractor, and he manages another field using draft horses. An elderly neighbor who spent a lifetime homesteading with her husband told me that she often put in long days in her youth—she would work at her off-farm job all day, come home and fix supper, and head out to the fields to help with the haying until dark—but never resented it because he, too, was carrying a heavy load and working long hours.

Gender Roles On The Homestead: What’s The Right Way To Do It?

Image source: Pixabay.com

All people, both men and women, have particular challenges that make it harder for them to tackle certain tasks that others can do with relative ease. They might lack the upper body strength needed for driving cedar fenceposts into the ground or have a phobia about snakes that makes them anxious about working in areas of snake habitat or have seasonal allergies that keep them away from certain plants.

Everyone has definite strengths, as well. They may have a special way with animals that makes them easier to manage, or have a knack for keeping engines running, or be tall enough to throw hay bales into the loft without a ladder, or so skilled at cooking that they can create a delicious meal out of anything.

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It makes sense for the person who can do the task more easily to do it whenever possible, letting jobs fall naturally into the hands of the one most likely to do them best. Sometimes people are equally capable and it comes down to preference. There are jobs that some of us really hate doing, and others that we don’t mind or even enjoy. My husband rarely asks me to take on tasks that I hate if he doesn’t mind doing them and has the time, and I afford the same consideration for his preferences, as well.

Timing matters, too. Not unlike most households, homesteaders often divide up chores according to who is available to do so at the time it needs to be done. One parent does evening chores while the other helps with the 4-H project, the person whose route home from work is closest to the feed store picks up grain on the way by, and everyone takes turns sitting up all night with a pregnant animal headed for a difficult delivery.

Timing is important not only in day-to-day operations but also seasonally. The partner who stays out of the kitchen for most of the year might spend the harvest season knee-deep in pressure canners and blanch pots, and the one who prefers to work indoors might have little choice but to make an exception during certain conditions.

Skills and routine timing aside, real life on a homestead means that sometimes stuff happens when it happens, and whoever is available is the person who is responsible for it. The sick mare, the broken gate, the predator in the chicken house, the sourdough starter needing to be stirred, the beans needing more water as they bake, or the dog getting porcupine quills in its nose—the person whose watch it is at the time is the person who has to take care of it.

Many homesteaders work more or less together on projects. For my husband and me, the most rewarding part of what we do is the privilege of doing it side-by-side as much as we can. Rather than spend a day on the homestead on opposite ends of the homestead, we often join forces for everything from firewood-processing to cooking to barn cleanouts.

The answer to the question of gender workload division on the homestead is that there is no one right answer. In relationships where tradition is paramount, it is likely that division of labor might reflect that philosophy. Other couples and families might do things very differently. It all works toward a successful homesteading venture, especially if skill, timing, necessity and the joy of spending time together are all taken into account.

Do you agree or disagree? Share your thoughts in the section below:

Spring on the Homestead – A Busy Time Of Year!

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Spring on the Homestead – A Busy Time Of Year! Austin Martin “Homesteady Live“ Audio in player below! On this show we catch up with you all! It has been a busy spring on our homestead. Usually, winter leaves us all sitting inside our homes, by a fire, dreaming of all the new things we want … Continue reading Spring on the Homestead – A Busy Time Of Year!

The post Spring on the Homestead – A Busy Time Of Year! appeared first on Prepper Broadcasting |Network.

How To Fulfill Your Homesteading Dreams By … Renting?

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How To Fulfill Your Homesteading Dreams By ... Renting?

Image source: Wikimedia

Have you always dreamed of homesteading or living off the grid, but can’t do so since you don’t own any land?

There’s good news: There’s a variety of ways you can start homesteading without necessarily owning acreage.

After my family and I made the leap from city to country several gyears back, we rented a small property in a rural town that allowed us to plant vegetables and raise small livestock. We did this for several years before purchasing land of our own, enabling us to transition from urban to rural in a gradual and deliberate way.

Why Rent?

The benefits of leasing over purchasing land are numerous: you shell out minimal expense, start farming without long-term commitment, and have an option to leave the property – and the farming lifestyle — if you decide it’s not for you. Call it an on-the-job training or a trial period. Leasing gives you a chance to hone your skills and test the land or area around you. Meanwhile, you’re able to gauge just how much space, structures, plants and animals you’ll need when you start homesteading on your own future property.

And because the place isn’t your own, you won’t feel obliged to do home improvement projects unless it’s totally needed, or you can negotiate a deduction from the following month’s rent. Instead, you can save those much-needed funds to raise capital for your own future farm.

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Renting could be that important and helpful “middle step” between leaving the city, a full-time job and all the urban pursuits, and settling into your desired country lifestyle – for good.

Why Farmers Lease

Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

There are different reasons landowners may want to lease their properties, big or small, productive or not. Some may be economic factors, others for personal reasons. With the average age of farmers at 57, there’s a substantial number of old-generation farmers looking to retire or slow down. They may opt to downsize their operations, partner with young farmers, or lease out a portion of their land to aspiring homesteaders.

Here’s where you enter the picture. If you’re a beginning farmer, you can learn the ropes by maintaining somebody else’s farm or starting a small one on rented land.

Here’s How:

1. Plan your budget. Set limits when estimating the price and size of land you want to rent. Be realistic about your needs but allow some wiggle room to make improvements. Remember, you’ll need to be able to manage the property and provide any necessary add-ons, such as chicken coops, a hoop house, fencing, etc.

2. Search for land. Ask the folks at the farmer’s market, feed store, 4-H Club or farm-to-table organizations if they know of any farms being let out in your area or region. Don’t forget to check out your state’s agricultural extension office for listings. Online, there’s a host of farm-link websites that connect landholders with gardeners, new farmers and ranchers looking to rent land. These sites list available farms and forest lands for rent per state, region and all across the country. Many already have existing barns, pasture and water source. Some websites even allow land seekers to post an ad outlining their desired farm features – electricity, fencing, outbuildings, trees, access to water, land that hasn’t been sprayed for a few years, etc. And still other websites have a “matching service,” offering to facilitate meet-ups, negotiations and agreements. Check out the following:

BeginningFarmers.com

YoungFarmers.com

LandStewardshipProject.org

FarmLandInfo.org

TheLandConnection.org

SharedEarth.com

FarmFlip.com

RentThisLand.com

3. Explore creative solutions. Don’t limit yourself to the standard cash-rent setup. There’s a variety of ways to do farming or homesteading other than self-sufficiency; you can also get into profitable ventures that could benefit both you and your landlord. There’s crop- or livestock-sharing, which allows you to split half of the income you make, in cash or kind.

Urban market gardener Curtis Stone does this, earning six figures a year by growing high-value, fast-growing vegetables in just half an acre he leases in British Columbia, Canada. He simply rents neighbors’ lawns, yards and idle properties in the suburbs, and pays his landlords $20-30 worth of crops each week.

Another possible arrangement is a lease-to-own, which works especially well with older farmers looking to downsize or retire within the next few years. If you’re a young farmer, look into partnership agreements. These pair young farmers with established ones nearing retirement.

4. Formalize. After you and your future landlord have agreed on the details of your land use, finalize everything on paper. Review and evaluate your agreement periodically and adjust wherever needed or desired.

5. Start slow. Work on a garden size and number of animals that you and the property can handle. If you’re building additional structures that your landlord won’t pay for, make sure they’re the collapsible and portable kind. Container gardens, rainwater barrels and electric fences are examples of such removable fixtures.

6. Small space? Go micro. If you end up renting a suburban property whose owner will allow you to do backyard homesteading, wonderful! Go ahead and use whatever available space you find to grow food. Just remember to be a good neighbor. Ask next-door residents if they wouldn’t mind if you kept some hens or a couple of pygmy goats. As goodwill, offer them a number of eggs or a bottle of milk each week, once you start producing consistently.

 

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Even if you’re renting an apartment or a high-rise condo in the city, you can still dip your toes into homesteading. Grow salad greens and medicinal herbs on your balcony. Learn to can and make your own jams and pickles. Bake bread from scratch. Make your own soap and cleaning products. There’s 101 ways to begin your journey toward homesteading and self-sufficiency. You don’t really need to own land to do so.

What advice would you add for homesteading while renting? Share your tips in the section below:

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5 Brilliant Homestead Hacks Grandma Never Taught Us

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5 Brilliant Homestead Hacks Grandma Never Taught Us

If your grandmother was anything like mine, it seemed like there was nothing she couldn’t do. She could sew just about everything, grow just about anything, and seemed to know just about everything!

This is because my grandmother raised children during the Great Depression. She learned to make things herself … or do without! She passed some of these skills on to my mother, and I picked up a few myself, but I was thinking the other day about things my grandmother did that she really never talked about.

Looking back, I can see that these little “hacks” of hers were pretty darn useful, yet for some reason, she never felt the need to explain them.

So, in this article, I want to share the top 5 hacks that my grandmother practiced, but never talked about, just in case your grandmother never shared them with you, either!

1. Keep straight pins sharp

My grandmother kept two pin cushions. One was the typical cloth “tomato,” but she also had another one that was simply a bar of soap. I foolishly thought that my grandmother was just too cheap to buy a new pin cushion, but low and behold, I later found one of my friends using a bar of soap as a pin cushion. When I asked him why, he told me that this kept his straight pins sharp and the soap made them glide through the fabric easier.

2. No more lonely socks

When I would lose a sock or if by chance one sock developed holes or the elastic wore out before the other one did, I would give them to my grandmother. This was at her request. I never asked why she wanted them; I assumed she would make sock puppets (which she did on occasion) or use them for some “silly” purpose, but it wasn’t until I saw my mother use an old sock for dusting that the light bulb went off in my head.

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I was buying those microfiber towels for dusting, and here the answer to dusting was right under my nose. My old socks work just as well as my microfiber towels — and they don’t cost a dime!

3. Umbrella or sunhat?

5 Brilliant Homestead Hacks Grandma Never Taught UsMy grandmother was fond of saying things that seemed strange as a kid but later made me laugh, such as “if you can see the moon and stars, it won’t rain.” Well, if you can see the moon and stars, that means there are no clouds! She would go stand in the front yard and stare at the clouds for a minute or two, and then come inside and announce whether we should take umbrellas or hats for a sunny day. It was many years before I realized what she was doing; grandma was watching the movements of clouds. Clouds that become bigger as they move toward you (of course) indicate it likely will rain later.

4. No more sticky salt

It wasn’t until I moved to a more humid climate that I realized why my grandmother always filled her salt shakers with a mixture of uncooked rice and salt. The uncooked rice absorbed the moisture in the air, allowing the salt to stay drier and move more freely. I discovered this while Googling how to stop the salt from clumping! My grandmother knew this secret years before Google did!

5. Loose screws

No, I’m not talking about your in-laws; I mean those nail holes or screws with holes that have become enlarged over time. Occasionally, you can simply use a larger screw or nail, but with some items, such as a wooden kitchen cabinet door with a handle that will only take a certain size nail, you need a better hack than super glue! This is a true grandma hack that everyone can appreciate. Simply take a wooden toothpick and insert it into the hole. Break it off and then re-use your nail or screw. If it’s a really big hole, try two toothpicks. If grandma didn’t show you this one, perhaps grandpa did.

If you were lucky enough to come from a family who believed in handing down hacks like these the way some families handed down clothes, consider yourself fortunate!

What are your favorite grandma or grandpa hacks? Share your tips in the section below:

Grid-Free Climate Control: 3 Innovative Ways To Keep Your Home’s Temperature Comfortable

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Grid-Free Climate Control: 3 Innovative Ways To Keep Your Home's Temperature Comfortable

Spring is perhaps the best time of the year to experiment with super-efficient heating and cooling systems, since the temperature can flip from chilly one day to warm the next.

However, another reason why spring may be a good time to get those systems up and running is because temperature swings can strain our AC systems. Allow me to explain. Much like automobiles, the stopping and starting of the AC motor — again and again — consumes lots of energy and also can lead to earlier-than-expected repairs. This is especially true for homes that have a heat pump on their system.

But there are innovative, off-grid, eco-efficient ways to stay comfortable during spring, no matter the temperature. And all three can run without the grid:

1. Compost hot-water system

Whether the idea came from a Ph.D. in engineering or a backwoods farmer with a huge amount of creative common sense, I wish I could shake that person’s hand for inventing the compost water heater. The system is set up by winding a heat-capable hose through the compost pile, and then routing it back into the building that requires hot water.

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Hey, it’s no secret that compost generates heat. Heck, when piles of hay and mulch are left alone, they can spontaneously combust. So, why not put that kind of thermal energy to work? Chances are that you probably have a compost pile somewhere on the homestead, right?

 

 

2. The 5-gallon bucket swamp cooler

For those of you who live in the west or southwestern part of the U.S., you’re probably well-acquainted with the concept of the swamp cooler. When water evaporates, it will expend a tiny amount of energy and remove heat in the process – similar to how our sweat glands work. That’s how swamp coolers work.

Obviously, this system doesn’t exactly serve those of us who live in traditionally humid summer climates, but there’s one extremely handy way to harness the science of a swamp cooler and combine it with a ridiculous level of portability. And since this thing will make even a small solar panel array barely break a sweat, I figured the bucket swamp cooler made the cut.

 

 

3. Improvised geothermal climate control

And last but not least, I give you the whole kit-and-caboodle: the improvised geothermal climate control system. This one will also require low-wattage pumps and fans, but again, solar panels ought to do the trick with this one, as well.

The system essentially works like this: Even just a few feet below the ground, temps tend to settle at around a brisk 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit, holding steadily all year-round. In fact, if you’re able to dig deep enough, temps even can approach freezing. That’s why, for this particular system, the climate-control magic is derived from its subterranean water supply. In its most basic form, the system uses cool underground water from your homestead’s well to get the job done. To learn more, check out this great article.

All you need to do is move a little water and air, and the earth itself can take care of the hard part.

Have you experimented with any of these systems? Share your tips in the section below:

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How To Homestead Without Going Bonkers

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How To Homestead Without Going Insane

Image source: Max Pixel

 

Most people today lead busy lives. Between work, kids, house, errands, religious and civic organizations, volunteering, and personal time, there is usually not enough time in the day to squeeze it all in. And if that were not enough demands on people’s time, some folks add homesteading—and all the peripheral responsibilities accompanying it—into the mix.

It is little wonder that even the most seasoned homesteaders, when facing the challenges of fitting not only ordinary life into their schedules but the added pressures of livestock care and gardening, as well, can feel overwhelmed at times.

The good news is that it can be done. The bad news, or at least the news that may not be exactly what we all want it to be, is that sometimes compromises are required.

Here are a few ways to help fit homesteading into an already jam-packed life:

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First, determine priorities. The first step in doing this is to identify those critical tasks and activities which cannot be left undone. Asking yourself what is the worst that can happen if it does not get done can help determine which must be placed on the first tier. For most people, the homesteading matters of highest rank are those involving animals. If lawns become overgrown or weeds grow in the garden or some of the lettuce bolts before it gets eaten, none of that is as potentially catastrophic as animals that do not get fed, watered, milked, vetted, and put in at night.

Every homestead and season has its crucial must-dos. Tasks such as getting the hay in before rain, sitting up all night with a sick calf, and covering the tomatoes before a frost usually leap to the front of the line.  But if your homestead is suffering a drought or if a piece of the barn roof is loose and in danger of ripping off during the next windstorm, you might choose to juggle those in, too.

Sometimes it helps to compare the cost—in terms of time spent and other measures—of doing something versus the cost of not doing it. For example, will the time it takes building low tunnels over the berries now outweigh the time spent deterring hungry birds and suffering the loss of harvest later? Will getting the new woodshed built this season be worth it in terms of lower heating costs from burning better-dried firewood?

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After figuring out which tasks cannot be left undone, flip to the other end of the spectrum and ask yourself what tasks and projects could possibly be superfluous. Homesteading is such an exciting endeavor and has so many possibilities that it’s hard to know when to say when. Is it possible to let the flower beds along the driveway go or maintain fewer birdfeeders or downsize the burgeoning goat herd or maybe heat your home with less labor-intensive fuel for part of the year? Perhaps the barn addition or new greenhouses can be put on hold for later, as well.

Once the most urgent and least urgent priorities are determined, those remaining in the middle might feel more manageable and can be eased into the correct place in line.

Having the order of importance figured out, it helps to write it all down. There is no single best format for everyone, but do try to include some of both short-term and long-term objectives. It is important to first have a conversation with others to make sure no mistaken assumptions are being made, and then create a written plan for the homestead and everyone involved in it.  Having goals on paper is not only useful in its own right, but it helps to further refine direction and to prevent straying off target.

With priorities and a written goal in place, the next step is to make it manageable. One way to do this is to chop projects up into bite-size chunks. It is good to keep the big picture in sight and be mindful of long-term dreams, but trying to achieve too much too soon can be overwhelming.  It makes more sense to carve off some attainable pieces of the overall scope and focus on a few at a time.

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A technique that works for me is to set finite limits. Homestead tasks often go the direction of the children’s book where a mouse is given a cookie, then wants milk to go with it, and then wants to clean up afterwards, and it never ends. Falling face-first into projects that never seem to reach completion can be discouraging, so it helps to set end caps in place before starting.

I like to set forth a goal that is lofty yet achievable, and promise myself a reward when it is done. Sometimes the reward is a fun or easier activity, and other times just the intrinsic satisfaction of making progress or knowing that the task is done is enough. I might commit to splitting firewood for the duration of one tankful of gas in the splitter and take the rest of the day off to go paddling, or plan to spend exactly two hours working in the garden before moving on to some other job.

The next step toward homestead time management is to share responsibilities with others in the household. A crucial task for leaders in any organization is to train others to do their jobs. It is folly to believe that you are the only person who can do what you do. Delegate to others, no matter how difficult it is for you to let go. By doing so, you will relieve your own stress, help others build proficiency and confidence, and create a more efficient homestead operation.

In the end, there are only 24 hours in a day. No matter how wisely we use our time, everyone must accept the fact that we cannot do it all. One way to help embrace this concept is to measure progress according to accomplishments instead of failures. Rather than look at unfinished work and feel dragged down by shortcomings, it makes more sense to pat ourselves on the back for all we have gotten done.

By prioritizing, planning, delegating and focusing on the positive, homesteaders can maximize their efforts and get more done than ever thought possible.

What advice would you add? Share your thoughts in the section below:

4 Fruit-Bearing Plants You Can Grow In A Teeny-Tiny Yard

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4 Fruit-Bearing Plants You Can Grow In A Teeny-Tiny Yard

Shiros plums. Image source: StarkBros.com

 

I first became interested in homesteading when my husband and I purchased a house on a small suburban lot. The yard was filled with typical city landscaping — a boxwood hedge, a couple of potentillas, a lilac, some overgrown evergreens and a lot of grass taking up the space in between.

The one bright spot in all of this was the fruit trees. Instead of the usual arbor vitae, the former owner had planted an apple and two cherry trees along the fence line — not decorative cherries but a real-life Bing and Rainier. When summer arrived, all three trees produced a prolific amount of fruit. So much so that the neighbors often stopped by and asked if they could join in on the harvest. We were happy to oblige.

It was then and there that my ideas about the “right” way to landscape changed. Since homesteading was a priority for us, why not tear out a few of the ornamentals that came with the house and replace them with fruit-bearing bushes and ground covers? The formal landscaping “look: would still be intact but it would also come with the added bonus of producing fruit.

Over time and with a lot of experimentation, I was able to determine a number of trees, shrubs, flowers and ground covers that behaved well in a suburban landscape but also took me one step closer to my ultimate goal of becoming more self-sufficient. Here is a list of some of my favorites.

1. Plums — The size of a fully mature plum tree varies depending on the rootstock. Smaller-sized trees use the semi-dwarf root stock Mariana 2624. This rootstock will produce a tree between 10-15 feet in height at maturity. It acclimates well to a variety of climates and soil types. My favorite plum is the Shiro.

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Shiros tend to be loaded with an outstanding display of white blossoms in the spring, an abundance of golden orb-shaped fruits in the summer and a fiery gold display of foliage in the fall. The plums themselves are tangy and sweet at the same time without the squishiness that can be a turn-off to non-plum lovers. They make excellent jam and can be dried for later use. These trees respond well to regular pruning and are fairly forgiving to individuals who are new to the art of bonsai.

4 Fruit-Bearing Plants You Can Grow In A Teeny-Tiny Yard

Image source: Pixabay.com

2. Mulberries — Mulberries are incredibly easy to grow and can reach a mature height of more than 30 feet with a spread of 35 feet. They have an open form when properly pruned during the first years of growth, and naturally exhibit generous, graceful spacing between branches. For this reason, Mulberries make excellent shade trees. The fruits are delicious and attract a variety of seasonal birds, such as cedar waxwings and tanagers. Mulberries can be eaten fresh, made into pies and jams, or dried for later use. Mulberry juice can be fermented into an excellent wine. Mulberries are rich in anthocyanins, iron, protein and a host of vitamins and minerals that combat cancer and premature aging. In the fall, mulberry leaves morph into a breathtaking display of canary yellow foliage that will be the envy of the neighborhood.

3. Honeyberries — Honeyberries are a small shrub native to Russia. At maturity they are loaded with elongated blue fruits that have a similar flavor and texture to blueberries. Honeyberries are hardy and easy to care for. Harvest often falls a week or two before blueberry season, which is ideal for individuals who are interested in having a continuous source of fresh fruit in their yard. In the fall, honeyberries exhibit a rainbow of red and gold foliage.

4. Strawberries — As a groundcover, strawberries can’t be beat. Over the summer, they produce a profusion of runners and can quickly cover a patch of abandoned ground. Strawberries require very little care once established, provided they are watered regularly. To propagate strawberries, transplant runners in the spring or fall. Occasionally remove older, woody plants to keep beds productive. One of the most flavorful strawberries for jams and fresh eating is the variety Shuksan. For long-term storage, strawberries can be frozen whole or in pieces. They also can be pureed and dried into fruit leather.

This list is by no means comprehensive. Edible landscaping is all around us, once you know where to look. Now is the time to start transitioning your yard into a homesteader’s oasis.

What would you add to our list? Share your fruit-growing tips in the section below:

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8 Overlooked Ways To Make Thousands Of Extra Dollars Homesteading

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8 Overlooked Ways To Make Thousands Of Extra Dollars Off-Grid

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Any homesteading off-gridder knows that income from selling produce isn’t always sufficient. Costs for the building and repair of farm structures, purchasing additional livestock, veterinary expenses, real estate taxes — and everything else in between – can leave a homesteader struggling to keep afloat.

If making extra money is in your bucket list right now, then here’s a few things you could consider. The key is to think outside the box. Look for new or unusual needs in your community, and find ways to meet them. Keep an eye out for opportunities that may come up. If you start thinking like an entrepreneur and marketing like a pro – and of course, delivering extraordinary goods – customers will soon be knocking at your door.

And with a little hard work, you can be making thousands of extra dollars.

8 Overlooked Ways To Make Thousands Of Extra Dollars Off-Grid

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1. Conduct farm demos and nature tours. Give talks and workshops. Share farming and bushcraft skills with schools, scout clubs, youth and church groups. Gather all your pets and farm animals for a weekend petting zoo. Hold a fall festival, complete with a pumpkin patch, games and bounce houses. Train large goats to pull a cart, and offer kids goat-drawn buggy rides! Do hiking, horse-riding, ATV, mountain-biking and snowmobile tours – complete with a picnic of your family’s specialty meal. If you have wooded acreage, consider building platforms on treetops with hanging bridges or ziplines between them. Offer paintball games. The amount of money people are willing to pay for unique outdoor experiences can be astonishing, especially in areas where there are scenic spots.

2. Rent your land. Depending on the size, features and proximity of your land to towns, industry and tourist attractions, you could rent a portion of it for different uses. Camping. Firing range. Outdoor team-building workshops. Location for film and photo shoots.

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Parking or storage for trailers, ATVs, snowmobiles or boats. Billboard space, if it’s near a freeway. Solar farms and wind turbines. Airstrips or heliports. If you live next to other farms, consider leasing portions of your property as extra cropland or grazing area, seasonally or annually.

8 Overlooked Ways To Make Thousands Of Extra Dollars Off-Grid

Image source: Pixabay.com

3. Rent your structures. Rent your barn for special events like workshops, parties, Thanksgiving banquets and wedding receptions. There’s also good money to be made in leasing a room or cottage for a bed-and-breakfast stay or a winter holiday retreat. Depending on where you live, the attractions in your area and the recreation that can be done, you could lease a small cabin for a good fee. Potential clients are individuals or couples looking to get away from the city on weekends; a writer, theologian or doctorate student wanting peace and solitude to write and meditate; a young family looking to familiarize their children with the outdoors. If you have a camper, an old shipping container or a yurt that you had used before moving into your current home, you could use that for starters. Then if business grows, you can start thinking of building a bigger cottage that can host bigger families. Marketing is key — register with your local tourism board and with AirBnB.com.

4. Offer specialized services. Carpentry, welding, plumbing, car maintenance and farm equipment repair are trades that are always needed in rural areas. So are trucking and hauling goods like hay, lumber, livestock and all kinds of produce. Don’t think it’s too late for you to acquire any new skills, too. If there’s an opportunity, learn new trades that can be marketable in your area: butchery, tanning, brick-making, weaving, blacksmithing, shoeing horses. Even simple things like tree-pruning and brush-clearing are chores people are either too busy or lazy to do, and would rather others do for them.

5. Teach art, sports or a special skill. Do you have a unique talent others might want to learn? Even with this age of You Tube tutorials, there may be students in your area looking for teachers that can offer specialized, on-the-spot demonstration — without having to be licensed instructors.

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They may just want mentoring or coaching. If you’re great with people and are passionate about your craft, consider teaching it. Photography. Martial arts. Piano. Massage therapy. Herbalism. Home-brewing. Permaculture. The list goes on and on.

8 Overlooked Ways To Make Thousands Of Extra Dollars Off-Grid

Image source: Pixabay.com

6. Do professional service online. There are dozens of websites where you could sign up for part or full-time contracts: Flexjobs, Upwork, Fiverr, People per Hour, and Guru. These are location-independent jobs you can do whenever and wherever, if you have fast, reliable Internet. Most of these sites allow you to create a personal profile where you can outline your credentials and provide samples of your work. Once you clinch a few good, loyal clients, you’ll be good:

  • Any design work: graphics arts, photo/video editing, animation, architecture, website design, apps, furniture, clothes.
  • Writing: blogs, e-books, product reviews, newsletters, technical reports.
  • Translating.
  • Virtual assistant: data entry, online research, making reservations. (Check FancyHands.com for jobs like this.)
  • Transcribing.
  • Web maintenance or managing someone’s social media account.
  • Affiliate marketing.
  • Bookkeeping, accounting.
  • Legal and financial consulting.
  • You don’t need a teaching degree to help young or beginning students to learn a new subject you’ve already mastered. You can even teach English to new migrants or overseas students.
  • Music composition.

7. Make and sell crafts. Do you fancy refurbishing furniture? Repurposing old doors, windows and used pallets into unique new home decor? How about making scented candles, hand-spun yarn, pottery and faux jewelry? You can supply these to your local craft store or sell online, through Etsy and eBay. Or, you can start your own online store – it’s a lot cheaper and easier than buying or renting commercial space.

8. Sell non-edible farm produce. Sell goods that are off-shoots of what you already grow and do in your homestead. Timber. Firewood. Medicinal herbs. Fresh or dried flowers. Exotic ornamental plants. Vermicompost as potting soil. Worms for worm bins. Soaps and essential oils. Rabbits, dogs or birds that others can keep as pets.

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8 Overlooked Ways To Make Thousands Of Extra Dollars Off-GridWith some of the above, you’ll have to check local and federal laws for restrictions that may apply. And particularly for those that involve some level of risk, you’d do best to include a liability insurance.

Go the extra mile on advertising. Capitalize on social media, telling everyone in your life that you’re in business. Inform your neighbors and the local chamber of commerce. Network with affiliate industries. Leave posters at the community center, church bulletin board, local college, library, grocery store, pet stores, veterinary supply outlets, even on your vehicle.

Focus on one business first, grow it, and then move on to another as time and capacity permit. Each small venture potentially could have a snowball effect. If you have a spouse or older children that you could recruit, ask them to pitch in. You’ll be establishing a successful family enterprise sooner than you think.

What would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below: 

References:

3 Reasons Heritage Hogs Are Just Plain Better Than Commercial Hogs

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3 Reasons Heritage Hogs Are Just Plain Better Than Commercial Hogs

Guinea Hog. Image source: USDA

If you’re thinking about raising a couple of hogs for your family’s freezer, the first place to start is by deciding on the type of pig you want.

Heritage hogs and commercial meat hogs are distinctly different in many ways. Depending upon your space constraints, budget, timeline and individual beliefs you may find one better than the other. Heritage hogs are more self-sufficient but slower to grow. Meat hogs are fast growers but require more maintenance. And when it comes to the quality of the meat, it’s like comparing apples to oranges.

Heritage animals were bred by our colonial forefathers to adapt well to the local environment with little maintenance. In America, common breeds include Choctaw, Guinea Hog, Mulefood, Ossabaw Island and Gloucester Old Spot. These breeds were developed to exhibit better foraging abilities, longevity, maternal instincts, and resistance to disease and parasites when compared to selectively bred commercial breeds.

Here’s four traits of heritage hogs you need to know:

1. Heritage hogs are cheaper to feed (but need more space). You can set a heritage hog loose on acres of pasture and allow it to forage for the bulk of its diet, saving you tons in feed costs. But this means it must have permanent access to pasture. This is the first, and largest, discrepancy between the two types of hogs. How much space are you willing to dedicate as “hog land?” Heritage hogs were developed to fend for themselves on open land.

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For a small farm without an acre to spare for hog pasture, heritage breeds may not be the right choice. Commercial hogs that were developed to thrive in very small spaces get by perfectly well on as little as 20 square feet of space per hog. These breeds include Duroc, Hampshire, Yorkshire and Landraces. They will do just fine on dirt; however, these types of hogs need access to commercial hog feed 24/7 to meet their growing potential.

2. Heritage hogs are heartier. Not only are heritage breeds raised more humanely than your standard commercial CAFO pig, but they are also much more hearty. Thanks to their DNA, heritage breeds are naturally resistant to a variety of diseases and parasites. They are able to adapt to their environment without any help from you. You won’t ever have to juice up your Old Spots with antibiotics or growth hormones. Nor will you have to give them regular de-wormer. While commercial-breed hogs may not specifically require antibiotics or other medications, they are more susceptible to disease and parasites than heritage hogs. They also don’t deal as well with extreme weather conditions.

3 Reasons Heritage Hogs Are Just Plain Better Than Commercial Hogs

Guinea Hog. Image source: USDA

3. Heritage pork is more flavorful. When you think about the pork you will get as a reward in the end, a big factor is the taste you want. Commercial-type hogs have a leaner carcass, producing a light pink meat and little lard. This is the classic “supermarket” pork taste that so many people are accustomed to and may prefer. However, darker heritage pork has a more full, complex flavor; it is well-marbled with fat, meaning it is more juicy and tender. Like all grass-fed meat, heritage pork is also healthier for you. It is higher in good fatty acids, beta carotene, and vitamins D and E.

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Of course, not everything about heritage hogs is great. Let’s examine the one negative.

Caveat: They’re Slow Growers

Though the cost of feeding commercial hogs might seem daunting, remember that you will only be feeding them for a matter of months. Commercial hogs are bred for fast growth and good feed efficiency. A 50-pound feeder hog can reach market weight in as little as 100 days. If you are looking for some farm-raised meat and needing it fast, commercial hogs are the way to go. This is especially beneficial if you don’t like having hogs around full-time. Raise a couple of Hampshire-Durocs from August to November and have a pork-filled freezer and pig-free yard until next summer.

Though some heritage breeds mature faster, most take over a year to reach a weight worth taking to the butcher, some even longer. This is due in part to their genetics makeup and in part to their diet. If you are supplementing your heritage hogs with commercial feed, you may be feeding them more than a commercial hog in the long run.

As far as temperament goes, it can be a toss-up. Both types have more docile and more aggressive breeds. If you are looking for a pig with personality, Guinea Hogs can be real sweethearts. However, you may find raising pigs you’ve bonded with a big drawback when it’s time to hit the butcher’s block. Ultimately, if you want some quick, low-cost pork you raised yourself, then crossbreed commercial hogs are the way to go. If you want to preserve an environmentally sustainable breed that practically cares for itself, get a heritage hog.

What is your favorite type of hog? Share your advice in the section below:

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28 Important Tasks You Should Do This Spring on the Homestead

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This article was originally published on morningchores.com

Have you ever noticed that you never feel like you are ever really done when it comes to a homestead?

I realized how frequently I feel like I am caught with my bloomers down last year. It felt like I wasn’t prepared for winter.

But then before I knew it, spring was upon us, and I was chasing my tail again.

So here are a list of spring chores that you should keep on your radar so that your homestead will run smoother. I’m happy to say with a little more organization, I feel much better prepared for my homestead duties this year.

Remember, organization is key to homesteading. Here are a few ways to help your organization along:

1. Nurse Your Garden

If you don’t plan on buying all of your seedlings (which I don’t recommend), then you’ll need to start your own.

Depending upon where you live will depend greatly upon when you need to start your seeds. Here is a great seed starter calculator. However, whenever you can start your seeds, do so. This will save you lots of money and also give your plants ample amount of time to grow.

2. Bring the Babies Home

If you do not set your own eggs, then the spring is the right time to purchase new chicks and ducklings. This is the right time also to purchase chicks that you plan on raising for meat.

Also, if you purchase a hog to raise for meat instead of keeping a breeding pair of pigs, the spring is the right time to purchase it. Keep turkeys in mind too. If you want to purchase just a few turkeys to eat on special occasions instead of raising a breeding pair, then you’ll want to purchase them in the spring too.

3. Rev Up the Incubator

Photo by The Poultry Guide

My husband runs our incubator year round. Between it and the massive brooder box he built, we are able to sustain baby chicks, ducklings, and keets year round.

However, if you don’t have a small hatchery in your backyard, then you’ll probably only want to start incubating eggs in the spring and summer months. This means that the spring is a great time to start pulling eggs out of your coops and giving them a chance to hatch.

4. Build Tractors

Photo by The City Chicken

We use a lot of tractors around our homestead. They are great for baby bunnies, chicks, ducklings, and keets when they are starting out.

However, this means that we must build and repair them in the spring while the babies are still too small for them. Then when the babies get bigger, we can place them in the tractors to move them around the land and allow them to safely forage. This give the animals a healthier diet and saves us a lot of money on feed.

5. Get Ready to Milk

As spring comes around so does the baby boom usually. If you have goats, cows, or any other animal that you use for dairy purposes, then you’ll need to have your milking supplies ready.

We use a basic set-up with a milking station and a pail. However, I have to make sure that my milking stand is in good condition and that my pail is still clean and ready for milk. It is better to make necessary repairs or purchases before it is time to milk. That way you aren’t caught off guard.

6. Prepare Your Birthing Kit

Being prepared for birth is a necessity so you get the most out of your homestead. For rabbits, you need to ensure they have nesting boxes and hay. Be sure your brooder is cleaned out and ready for baby birds.

Though, I actually have a birthing kit when I’m expecting baby goats. It is nothing fancy. It is a laundry basket I purchased at the dollar store. Inside of the laundry basket I have fresh towels and blankets. I also include some latex gloves as well.

However, each spring is a good time to make sure it is easily accessible and that I have everything I need inside the basket. Goats don’t really need much help when birthing, but I’m usually present and there to pull (if needed) and to help my nanny goats clean their kids as I feel sorry for them trying to clean one kid and birth another.

7. Take Down Winterizing Materials

Depending upon where you live, you may have to winterize your coop, hutches, or bee hives. When warmer weather finally comes around, you need to go through and take all of the layers off.

Even though I live in the south, I still winterize to some extent. Our rabbit hutches are layered with more wind breaking material and so are our coops. When summer hits, we remove some of the layering because they just don’t need it.

So spring is the perfect time to go through and shed some of those heavier layers of protection for your animals and bees.

8. Clean Out Your Sheds and Barns

Sheds and barns are used heavily during the warmer months. It is important that they are organized so that you can find everything that you need as efficiently as possible. My husband use to be the world’s worst at just laying stuff down or not putting it in its place.

Finally, I had enough and my oldest son and I went to town on organizing things. It is amazing how much more functional our homestead is now. My husband has even become more organized because it truly makes life that much easier.

So go ahead and clean out your barns, buildings, and storage sheds while you can. It will make your summer and fall much easier.

9. Mend Your Fences

It is a fact of life that things break. Unfortunately, a lot of things break during the colder winter months. Fences are often times one of those things. Something will happen while it is cold and snowy outside.

Often for us, we’ll slap a band aid on it until the warmer months. However, when the warmer months roll around go ahead and mend those fences. It will save you a lot of time later when you aren’t having to round up animals that have escaped through your band aid.

10. Repair Your Buildings

Buildings are not cheap nor easy to build. Taking care of them is a necessity. Over time though, they wear down.

So instead of just letting them fall to ruin, make necessary repairs during the spring. If you had a roof collapse from the weight of the snow, go ahead and put a new roof on it with whatever materials you have on hand. It will save you a lot of money in the long run.

11. Repair Equipment

In case you haven’t noticed my theme yet, spring is a great time to make repairs. The reason is that the busy season is almost upon you. You are making preparations for when your homestead is in full swing again.

So go ahead and get your equipment in tip top shape so you won’t lose precious times in those warm months having to fix a tiller, a tractor, or whatever else you need to help your garden along. This will certainly make your life easier later if you make the time now.

12. Place Your Order

Some times we have to break down and purchase things. I hate those moments because I’m frugal. Yet, they must be done. For instance, I can’t grow a tractor part, gardening tools, or even farm equipment. I can purchase them inexpensively or even second hand, but it still requires I place an order.

So if there are items that you absolutely need and you have to purchase, spring is a good time to go ahead and get it over with. That way you’ll have what you need for the busy season, and hopefully the busy season will be a profitable one as well in order for your to recoup some of the money spent.

13. Build Garden Beds

Every year we add a few more garden beds. It just seems that we want to plant more so we naturally create more space for it. If you have any garden beds that need repair, or if you are needing to build extra space, then consider this a good time to begin building them.

So when spring rolls around, try a few of these garden bed ideas to get your amped up for the grow season.

14. Harvest Winter Vegetables

If you live in a warm enough climate, you can still grow vegetables during the winter months. We usually grow vegetables like carrots, radishes, turnip greens, and lettuce throughout the winter.

However, before we use the gardening space in the spring I have to be sure to go through the beds and pull up any left over veggies. This is particularly true for carrots as they hide very easily beneath the soil.

15. Clean Up Winter Greenhouse

If you have a cold frame or a fully heated green house, chances are you may use it to grow vegetables throughout the winter. I think that is awesome! I have a smaller greenhouse I use to start seedlings and grow fodder for my animals throughout the winter months.

But these greenhouses have to be cleaned up and ready for a fresh cycle of planting. The spring is a good time to clean them up and also to plant in them again for the next cycle.

16. Mix Up the Compost

Planting season is upon you if spring time has rolled around. In early spring is a good time to mix up your compost. This gives everything a good chance at complete decomposition by the time you need it for planting in around mid to late spring.

So keep this in mind in the early months of spring. Compost is a vital part of having a successful harvest during the summer and fall harvest.

17. Plant the Future Harvest

If you expect to have a harvest, then you must first plant the seeds. Mid to late spring is when most items need to be planted. This can be a large task depending upon what size garden you have.

We have a larger garden so it usually takes me a couple of days to get everything planted. I also feel like I’ve had a tremendous work out by the time I’m done. So expect to put in a lot of work with this chore.

18. Plant Some Eye Candy

I love flowers. I know a homestead is meant to be functional, but for me, I want it to be gorgeous too. This is why décor around my homestead is super important to me.

So if you love having a beautiful homestead too, then use the spring months to plant gorgeous flowers in beds and in window boxes to add some natural color to your property.

19. Create an Outdoor Living Space

I have lots of outdoor sitting space. I want my home to be a place that sustains us while also being a place that we can enjoy.

For this reason, I create outdoor living space. We have a back porch that gives us a shaded space to rest on hot days. I have a front porch that gives me a great place to relax at night and enjoy the view.

However, when spring rolls around I must put out my outdoor furniture in order to enjoy these spaces. So if you have outdoor furniture the spring is a great time to pull it back out and enjoy those outdoor spaces again.

20. Clean Your Heating Source

I’ve mentioned that we do have HVAC, but we also use a wood stove to heat our home during the winter months. When spring time hits, I know it is time to clean out the wood stove one final time as well as the ash pale.

Also, I need to clean my HVAC unit so it can be ready to blow cool air as those warm temps are just right around the corner. This is a good time to perform routine maintenance on these items as well.

21. Work on Your Water Barrels

We use multiple water catchment systems around our house. You should consider these options if you aren’t familiar with rain catchment systems.

However, the spring is a great time to make sure your rain water systems are working as they are supposed to. Use this time to do routine maintenance so you can water your gardens and animals without having to use the water for your home.

22. Defrost and Clean Out Your Freezer

Spring is upon you so the cycle of refilling the freezer for winter has begun again. This is a good time (when it should be at its emptiest state) to defrost the freezer, clean it out, and reorganize the items that are left with in it.

This way you will be able to know what is oldest and eat it first so nothing wastes. You’ll also be able to spot if your freezer needs any maintenance. Plus, you can take inventory of what you have available to eat in your freezer as well.

23. Get Your Pantry Up to Par

I don’t know about you, but my pantry can become a mess rather quickly. I have multiple children who rummage through it and have a  way of taking my organization and throwing it to the four winds.

So spring is a good time to get a grip on that situation. I go through the pantry, reorganize, and rotate canned items so I know what I need to eat first. Plus, I make room for the items I’ll be canning in the upcoming seasons.

24. Make Room for Staples

My husband works a regular job while I work at home and then we homestead on top of that. However, his job is based upon work load. So he usually makes a lot more money in the summer in comparison to the winter months.

So I use these months to stock up on staples while I have the extra cash. But I also have to make room in my home to hold these extra staples. Spring is a good time to start making room and dedicating certain spaces in the pantry, closets, etc. to hold certain staples that you can buy cheaper in the summer and use all year.

A few examples of items I’ll buy in the spring and summer are wheat seeds (I grind my own wheat), sugar, baking supplies (like baking soda and baking powder), and often I find coffee cheaper during these months. So I go ahead and stock up for the year so in the winter when I don’t have as much stretch to my budget, these items are already stored away for when I need them.

25. Clean Your Homestead Home

You didn’t think in all of this preparation I was going to forget about your actual dwelling space, did you?

Well, I didn’t. Having a clean house is so important because it helps to keep things organized and that just makes life function so much better.

Not to mention, there are certain areas in our homes (like behind the stove and refrigerator) that need some attention every 6 months or so. This is a good time to make the time to clean these items so you start the busy season of homesteading with an organized dwelling space.

26. Pull Out the Cool Stuff

I’m talking about temperature cool. Spring starts bringing warmer temps with it so you’ll need to put away the warm winter clothing and linens.

Instead, you’ll need to replace them with lighter weight options. This will keep you comfortable and organized too.

27. Clean Your Canners

Canners need a good scrub down. I usually scrub mine down after I complete a season of canning and then again before I begin. You might think that odd of me, but I want to make sure they are put away clean.

Plus, I want to make sure that all of the dust that can gather on them during the winter is removed. It is also a good time for me to check my canners out and make sure they are functioning properly so they can do their jobs.

28. Go Shopping for Canning Season

Spring time is the time to shop for canning supplies. If you need to buy a new canner you better do it before the season really gets started.

Also, you must buy lids. If you live in my neck of the woods, when lids come into town in certain stores with the lowest prices, you have to hustle or you’ll miss out.

So use this time of year to get prepared for canning season and make sure you have all of the supplies you need.

Well, there are 28 chores that should help you use your time in the spring to better prepare for the busy time of year that is only right around the corner.

But I’m curious what chores you do around your homestead in the spring time. Do you have anything specific that isn’t mentioned here?

Please let us know by leaving your thoughts in the comment section below.

Source : morningchores.com

 

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These Meat Livestock Will Give You The Most ‘Bang For Your Buck’

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These Meat Livestock Will Give You The Most ‘Bang For Your Buck’

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When choosing a meat animal for your homestead you may begin wondering, “What animal will get me the most bang for my buck?”

Each animal uses feed differently, and some are able to turn that feed into pounds of meat more efficiently than others. This is usually expressed by what’s called a feed conversion ratio. Feed conversion ratios are a rate of measure that expresses the efficiency with which an animal converts feed into the desired output. For cattle, broiler chickens and pigs, the desired output is body mass. For dairy cows, the desired output is milk. For the purposes of this article, we are just going to focus on animals where the desired output is body mass, or pounds of meat.

The mathematical formula for a feed conversion ratio is as follows: FCR = feed given / animal weight gain.

This feed conversion ratio (FCR) is typically expressed as one number and is dimensionless, meaning it is not effected by whatever units of measure are used to calculate the ratio. A low FCR means that the animal is efficient at converting feed to the desired output, while a higher FCR means the animal is relatively inefficient. In other words, the lower the FCR, the higher the weight gain obtained from feed. It is important to remember that FCR can be calculated using several different metrics.

Some farmers calculate FCR based on live weight, for example, while some calculate based on dressed weight. Although a good place to start when looking at the feed efficiency of different livestock, FCRs also can be hard to compare between species unless the feed in question is of similar suitability to the animal in question.

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That being said, let’s dive into the different FCRs of some common homestead animals.

These Meat Livestock Will Give You The Most ‘Bang For Your Buck’

Image source: Pixabay.com

One of the most common animals found on any homestead is broiler chickens. Broiler chickens are chickens being raised for meat, and their FCR varies widely depending on the breed raised and the conditions in which they were raised. Commercial livestock operations boast broiler chicken FCRs of 1.8 for Cornish Crosses raised in factory farm conditions. Chickens raised on pasture or free-range systems are more active and therefore have higher energy needs, translating into a higher FCR. Cornish Cross broilers can have an average FCR of 3.5 when raised on pasture, while some heritage breeds of chickens have FCRs of 4.0 or higher.

Many homesteaders choose to raise rabbits because of the relatively low cost of feedstock, ease of breeding, high protein content of their meat and short time between birth and butcher. Just as with any animal, the FCR of rabbits is highly dependent on breed and raising method (pasture vs. high grain diet). Rabbits raised on a high grain diet have an FCR anywhere between 2.5 to 3.0, and those on pasture average an FCR between 3.5 and 4.0. When choosing whether to feed primarily grain or pasture, it is important to not only look at the FCR. Consider the cost of feed (grain costs money, forage is free) and your desired turn-around time from birth to butcher.

Due to the prevalence of beef in the average American diet, there has been a lot of research done on the FCR of beef cattle. In modern feedlots, an average FCR of 6.0 is common. In this method, cattle are fed on pasture until they reach approximately 600 to 900 pounds, then they are brought to the feedlot to be raised on grain until they reach 1,300 pounds. The FCR of beef cattle raised strictly on pasture is not nearly as well researched, but preliminary data shows that the FCR will be higher for beef cattle raised strictly on pasture.

Pigs are one of the most efficient sources of red meat on the homestead. When butchered between 240 and 250 pounds, commercially raised pigs have an average FCR of 3.46. Like cattle, data for more pastured-based systems is not as easily come by, but some farmers report FCRs anywhere between 4.5 and 5.5 for pigs raised on both pasture and a ration of grain.

There are obviously many more factors to consider when choosing livestock for your homestead than just the FCR. You must take into account how much you’re willing to spend on grain, the value of raising animals on a pasture-based system, your preferred type of meat and what resources you already have available to you. FCR is not the “end all, be all” for determining how efficient an animal is or if it is the right choice for your homestead. However, it is a measurable number that can be factored into your decision, and it is a good place to start when looking at the wide variety of factors that influence raising animals for meat production.

From your experience, which animal is the most efficient for meat? Share your tips in the section below:

Aryn is a farmer and writer living in Homer, Alaska

Discover The Secret To Saving Thousands At The Grocery Store. Read More Here.

Storage Issues

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One of the biggest issues I have had with my prepping is acquiring and storing the items I have put aside. There are several reasons for this and I have spent some time and money actually working out and implementing what I think is best for me and mine.

The hardest issue to work around […]

5 Wise Ways To Use The Last Few Weeks Of Winter (No. 2 Is The One Everyone Forgets!)

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5 Wise Ways To Use The Last Few Weeks Of Winter (No. 2 Is The One Everyone Forgets!)

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Transitioning from winter to spring is an exciting time around our homestead. We have used these last few months to research and plan new ideas to incorporate on our land throughout the coming growing season. Right now, we are seeing the last remnants of snow and ice melt away, creating a soggy mess of our land, but there are still plenty of things we can do inside to prepare our homestead for the busy spring season.

Using these last few weeks of winter to prepare for spring weather allows us to work efficiently during those first weeks of spring when life around the homestead becomes increasingly busy. As with any project, creating a plan, even if it is a simple list, enables us to establish what needs finishing before the weather breaks and it helps us take full advantage of the warm winter days that come our way. So, what will we be doing to ensure we are using these last few weeks of winter wisely?

1. Preparing for seeds.

This year we are going to use newspapers saved by neighbors, family and friends to create seedling pots. Cutting and folding enough pots for the seeds we are planning to start indoors this year will take some time, but the materials and labor are free. Additionally, using newspaper pots will allow us to place the whole thing into the ground. No chasing down plastic seedling trays blown about by the wind or finding a place to store them in the offseason. If you are using traditional plastic seedling trays, use this time to clean them, inspect them and replace them if necessary. Or consider newspaper pots!

2. Implement maintenance.

Now is the time to be sure your tools, mechanical and otherwise, are in sound, working condition. For hand tools, sharpen the edges, oil the blades and repair or replace splintered or broken handles. Sharpening the blades of mower decks, tillers, plows and other implements now will allow spring ground-breaking to get off to a smooth start.

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5 Wise Ways To Use The Last Few Weeks Of Winter (No. 2 Is The One Everyone Forgets!)

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In addition to the array of outdoor tools that need to be maintained, sharpen and oil your scissors and knives. Sharpening butchering tools in these last few weeks of winter will save you time during the busy harvest season.

3. Stocking up on the essentials.

If you produce your own soaps, detergents and other household products, stocking up now will ensure you make it through the busy spring and summer months without setting aside precious time to whip up more. Estimate the amount you will need to have on hand until after harvest, and set aside a day to complete multiple batches. This is also the perfect time to rotate food storage supplies while cleaning and reorganizing, if necessary.

4. Preparing soil amendments.

Not all of the prep work can be done indoors, so take advantage of those warmer days in the last weeks of winter to work outside. Enrich garden soils by adding a top layer of compost to the rows. This will allow the compost to begin breaking down before you till it under in a few weeks. If you are planning on adding new raised beds, begin marking off dimensions, or even start constructing them, weather permitting.

5. Building and fence maintenance.

Inspect your outbuildings and fencing for damage due to wind, ice buildup or other weather-related activity. Wet winters can cause wood rot, as well as mold and mildew issues if the temperature remains above freezing for long. Repairing buildings and fencing now will ensure there are no untimely accidents later due to escaped inhabitants or ruined food supplies.

What would you add to our list? Share your tips in the section below:

Bust Inflation With A Low-Cost, High-Production Garden. Read More Here.

He Quit A High-Paying Fortune 500 Job To Homestead

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tim young pic for emailMany people in the U.S. are chasing the American dream, trying to make more money so they can – supposedly – be happier.

But a handful of Americans are going the opposite route, leaving the American dream because it didn’t fulfill their desires.

This week’s guest on Off The Grid Radio was president of a Fortune 500 division and ran one of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. before he quit his corporate job and sold his house on a golf course … to homestead.

His name is Tim Young, and he tells us:

  • What caused him to leave his job and try something different.
  • Why the homesteading life is more enjoyable than a high-paying corporate job.
  • How he learned the skills needed to homestead, prior to YouTube.
  • Why the self-sufficient life fulfills a need that money does not.
  • How he makes extra cash living on the homestead – and how you can, too.

Young, who has written several books about self-sufficiency, also shares with us his thoughts on the American dream – and why so many people have it all wrong. If you’re looking for an inspirational story this week, then don’t miss this amazing show!

20 Tiny House Plans You Can DIY

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20 Tiny House Plans You Can DIY Tiny house living basically means living minimally in a small home with a size of under 500 square feet. If you’ve never heard of this concept before, you might think that it’s weird because isn’t it better to live in a modern, big house like those celebrities’ homes you …

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Why Homesteaders SHOULDN’T Own Livestock

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steven gregerson pic for emailAs homesteading continues growing in popularity, many wannabe homesteaders face sticker shock – surprised by the costs of a self-sufficient life.

But this week’s guest on Off The Grid Radio says that homesteading doesn’t have to be expensive. Homesteader Steven Gregersen, who lives on 20 acres in Montana, says too many homesteaders begin with the wrong outlook and goals, thus dooming their endeavor.

Gregersen wrote a book, Creating the Low-Budget Homestead, that explains how he homesteads on the cheap.

Gregersen explains to us why he urges first-time homesteaders not to buy livestock – and how they still can get free meat. He also tells us:

  • How to find inexpensive land that, with a little work, can be perfect for homesteading.
  • How the proper view of budgeting can place a homesteader on the path to success.
  • How he “gets by” without having a lot of things Americans take for granted.
  • How he earns money off-grid, and how you can, too.

If you’ve ever wanted to homestead but didn’t think you could afford it, or if you simply want to learn new ways to save money, then this week’s show is for you!

12 Ways To Be More Self Sufficient Without Having a Homestead

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12 Ways To Be More Self-Sufficient Without Having a Homestead There are many things you can do even on a small piece of land. It doesn’t take 20 acres to be more self-sufficient. Most can be done with minimal effort and offer long term benefits. Start today.. I did it and now I am loving …

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How To Make Your Own Aluminum Teardrop Trailer

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How To Make Your Own Aluminum Teardrop Trailer For preppers who are looking for a mobile housing option of the DIY variety, an aluminum teardrop trailer is a great option. This compact, lightweight design is towable so it is much more economical than a large RV or a heavy conversion van. It is smaller than …

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How To Homestead When You Can’t Afford It

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How To Homestead When You Can't Afford It

Each year more and more Americans are choosing to homestead, but along the way some discover that it is far more expensive than they envisioned.

That was the case with homesteader Teri Page, who along with her husband discovered they couldn’t afford to own a large piece of land in their state – and so they moved cross-country. Once at their new location, they employed a series of cost-cutting measures that would surprise even seasoned homesteaders.

Page is this week’s guest on Off The Grid Radio, and she tells us:

  • What type of inexpensive house they chose to build.
  • Why they decided not to set up a running water system.
  • How they chose the state where they now live.
  • Why living near the Amish has benefited their off-grid life.
  • How they make money, off-grid, using the Internet.

Finally, Page shares with us her tips for anyone who is looking to move to another state for an off-grid life. If you are wanting to homestead, or you simply enjoy listening to stories from adventurous people, then don’t miss this week’s show!

4 Winter Skills Every Homesteader Should Know

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4 Winter Skills Every Homesteader Should Know

Image source: Pixabay

Chances are that if you’re reading this, then you’re probably acutely aware of just how tough it can be to handle the year’s coldest months on the homestead.

It’s not long after the winter solstice that the temps begin to plummet, creating a perfect storm for situations on the homestead to deteriorate. After all, February’s full moon is known as the “Trapper’s Moon” — named for the fact that, like the snow, beaver pelts are at their thickest. Beavers have had to adapt this capability, perhaps with the knowledge that this is essential for maximizing their survival in extremely low temps.

Of course, if there ever were a perfect animal to model our own homesteading practices after, then it would have to be nature’s greatest homesteader: the beaver. And here are four great ways to do just that.

1. Please, remember: timing is everything

When it comes to surviving a winter on the homestead, one of the most important challenges to overcome is to see beyond the obvious ones — especially since the cold is something we’re all quite familiar with. If anything, this skill is one that keeps us one step ahead of the challenges.

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Timing is everything, especially due to how the daylight drains away quickly. Not only that, but because colder temps often give way to rapid-moving high-pressure zones, the weather can change even faster. For this reason, it’s critical to keep tabs on the following:

  • Make sure you are able to read the clouds to detect potential changes in weather, so you’re not caught completely off-guard if you must prepare for a fast-approaching blizzard. For more information, check out our recent article, Survival 101: How to Forecast Tomorrow’s Weather Without the Weather Channel
  • Since winter brings low-light conditions early in the day, it’s important to provide lighting in as many places around the homestead as possible. Predators aren’t fond of them, and they simply keep us safer from injury and disorientation.
  • Additionally, I recommend an EDC (everyday carry) kit that rides along with you. This will buy you additional time if you find yourself in a winter survival scenario and possibly require rescue.

3. Dress (and sew) for success

You’re probably not surprised about just how critical warm clothing can be this time of year. However, it’s important to know how to fix that clothing in a pinch. Knowing how to sew, along with having a kit that can meet the task at hand, could be invaluable.

4 Winter Skills Every Homesteader Should Know

Image source: Pixabay

It’s not uncommon for homesteaders to find themselves snowed in, largely cut off from access to populated areas, meaning that your best work coat is only as warm as the quality of its patches. With that being said, it’s important to invest in clothing and winter apparel that maintains insulating properties even while moderately moist or damp, such as wool and certain synthetics. Cotton, however, will lose all insulating properties when wet, so it’s best to stick with the tried-and-true materials (and not end up with frostbite).

2. Stay healthy

The cold is downright brutal on the body, especially for immune systems, since our metabolism must work harder to maintain body temps. So, it’s smart to keep your medicine cabinet well-stocked with the usual sick-fixes and your mind well-stocked with at least basic medicinal skills. Not to mention, the cold also can make for far-more-difficult muscle movements, impairing motor skills in the process.

So be sure to keep your walkways — along with those of your livestock — clear of ice and snow. Broken bones and torn tendons tend to make life A LOT more difficult for everybody.

1. Be efficient with your heat

Heat is, perhaps, the most coveted commodity on the winter homestead — meaning that you need to be able to generate it cheaply and hold on to as much of it as possible. Becoming knowledgeable about heat efficiency would greatly reduce your burden to chop wood and shovel pellets. For this, I’d recommend purchasing an IR camera to identify problem spots where heat may be leaking out your cabin. At least then you’ll be able to pinpoint exactly where to apply a can of insulating/expanding foam in the most scientifically efficient way.

In a previous post we discussed how to build your own water heater, running on nothing but the heat generated by your homestead’s compost pile. Not only can this system achieve higher temps than most residential water heaters, but you’re also using zero electricity in order to keep it working. Get good at thinking up designs and innovating your infrastructure on heat conservation, and you’ll spend far less time and energy trying to keep everybody (including your water supply) toasty warm.

What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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A Decade Of Homesteading: 7 Things We Got Right From The Beginning

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Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

There are a lot of lessons my husband and I learned the hard way since taking up homesteading in 2007, and there are plenty of things we would do differently if we could transport back in time and start over. But I am proud of the things we got right, too. Here are a few of the things that helped keep us going in the general direction of success:

1. We were on the same page. Unlike the 60s TV sitcom where a New York City couple suddenly lands on a farm in a move that appears to be completely against the wife’s wishes—she loved him, she sang in the opening credits, but would rather have Fifth Avenue—we were in complete agreement about why we wanted to take up homesteading and what standards and practices we would strive for once we got started. Many of the details have morphed over the years, sometimes in the same direction as one another and sometimes not, but we started out in complete consensus and have remained largely thus.

This is probably the most important thing we did, or anyone could do, the right way.  Sure, one partner might feel more strongly about the venture, or about particular aspects of it, than the other. But dragging along a reluctant or resentful spouse is not likely to work out long-term.

2. It helped that we were not total greenhorns. We were already accustomed to the outdoors and the natural world, having spent hundreds of hours hiking, backpacking, camping, hunting, fishing and camping before the idea of sustainable living ever struck us. As veteran outdoorspeople who were deeply involved with our local Boy Scout troop and other outdoor groups, we were no strangers to life beyond the pavement.

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We started out at our homestead with at least a smattering of already-established skills, as well. Our volunteer work with the Maine Appalachian Trail Club had helped teach us basic forestry, carpentry and chainsaw skills. Our previous home in a village had afforded us the opportunity to run a wood stove, grow ornamentals and a few vegetables, and cook food from scratch. It may not be essential that anyone considering homesteading have advance familiarity with such things, but it can be a great head start.

Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

3. We did a lot of homework before taking the plunge. My husband and I read books, watched videos, attended local living fairs, and visited farms. While it is true that studying something in books and other media is never quite the same as doing it in real life, I believe it made a big difference for us. Not only did we gain a lot of practical knowledge that could be put to use on the homestead, but we also gleaned a lot of philosophy from our reading. During occasional spells of frustration and difficulty over the years, we have found ourselves relying on what we learned beforehand to answer not only the question of how to, but the question of why when it needed to be restated.

4. There were mentors in our lives. We knew people who had first-hand experience at many different aspects of homesteading. There were those who had grown up on a dairy farm, who had raised backyard pigs, who volunteered for the cooperative extension as Master Gardeners, who were expert canners, who had worked on a berry farm, and many more. My husband and I gained more knowledge, practical tips and encouragement from our mentors than we ever could have gotten from anywhere else.

5. We were fit and healthy. Homesteading involves long hours, backbreaking work in all kinds of weather conditions, tedious and repetitive tasks, and often high stress — all of which can take a significant toll on one’s well-being. Starting off with our best feet forward was a real plus.

6. Our positive attitudes served us well. We were excited about possibilities, earnest in our endeavors, and confident. We were passionate about our goals, tried to stay open-minded about inevitable detours, and strove to balance idealism with realism. We didn’t always get it exactly right, but an optimistic outlook can carry most people further than they might get without it.

Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

7. More than anything, the thing we got right from the beginning was this: we up and did it! It really can be just that simple. I cannot tell you how many people visiting our homestead have sighed wistfully and said how lucky we are to be living our dream. There was a time when I would attempt to explain to them that it is not luck, but is instead hard work and dedication and sacrifice. A lot of it was about choice—about ours to live without some things they had and theirs to place other priorities above what we had. I used to try to help them understand that we faced a lot of obstacles on our road to homesteading, too—probably as many as they would. I would point out that living one’s dream involves some degree of intentionality.

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Now, though, I just nod and agree. We are indeed blessed to be living our dream. Like ducks skimming along the surface of an idyllic pond, paddling for all we’re worth underwater, we are making our choice of lifestyle work.

When a young relative recently lamented her limited success with her first-year vegetable garden, I encouraged her to focus on the fact that she grew more vegetables than she ever had before, instead of beating herself up over the plants that failed. In the same way, my husband and I try to hang onto our successes. And in the end, in homesteading practices as well as life in general, our mistakes do not define us. Instead, what counts is the fact that we dove in and gave it our all, and that we are still enjoying the journey.

If you’re a homesteader, what did you “get right” from the beginning? What advice would you give newbie homesteaders? Share your tips in the section below:

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5 Easy New Year’s Resolutions To Get More Done On The Homestead

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Easy New Year’s Resolutions To Get More Done On The Homestead

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Homesteading is no small undertaking. The responsibility for the combination of growing your own food, providing for your own shelter and heat, and living sustainably can take its toll on even those with the stoutest of constitutions. In short, it can be difficult to get it all done.

If you are among those who resolve to achieve more in the coming year and hope to look back with satisfaction at your homesteading accomplishments, here are five ways to frame your resolutions for success.

1. Prioritize. Don’t get caught up in that which is less important. Homesteaders are frequently pulled in so many different directions at once that the tasks which get tended first are apt to be the ones that make the most noise, whether they are the most crucial or not. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, so to speak.

Be proactive about defining priorities. Make a solid decision about what aspects of homesteading are most significant to you, and proceed accordingly. If you define yourself as a market gardener who enjoys keeping a few livestock animals on the side, take care not to get so bogged down with dairy goats or breeding sows that your kale and tomatoes suffer.

2. Focus. With all the things on your plate, it is tempting to nibble at one thing and then another, without ever actually finishing any of it.

I follow a famous personal finance expert who advises people to pay off debt by tackling the lowest balance first, no matter what the interest rate. The reason this works, he says, is because success is more about motivation than math.

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I have found that my money guy’s wisdom can be applied to other aspects in life, including homesteading. Sometimes it is worth it to clear an afternoon of big projects so you can tidy up some long-overdue small items. Spending 10 minutes to fix a gate latch, another 15 scrubbing out feed buckets, a few more sweeping the cobwebs from the barn windows, and a half hour pulling the weeds from around the raised bed gardens can result in the satisfaction of actually having a few things finished, and can be the shot in the arm you need to move on to other tasks. And when you get to those, focus on each one as you go, even if it means batting away the others like so many pesky mosquitoes — unless a true emergency happens, focus on the one at hand and force the rest to take a number and get in line.

3. Organize. Spend time up front arranging things — tools, food, ideas, paperwork, and so on — in a manner that allows you to locate them easily. In the end, this will save not only time but emotional energy. It is exasperating to embark upon a project only to have to hunt for the right tools and materials first, and even more so to end up having to interrupt your work and run to the store for a new thingamajigget — especially if the old one turns up later! It is also often counterproductive to begin tasks without having a clear well-thought-out plan.

Frantically searching for spare tractor keys or equipment owner’s manuals or your favorite cheese recipe, discovering some much older home-canned goods that got hidden behind the fresher jars, or making do with a too-small paintbrush because the proper sized one cannot be found are never productive ways to spend time.

4. Evaluate. Is what you are doing manageable? Homesteading is like any other occupation or lifestyle in that you need to know when to say when. Small ideas and side projects can explode into all-encompassing compulsions. A few small lambs can become an out-of-control flock of sheep. A few hours of volunteering can end up as an unpaid committee chair position that swallows you whole. Having five different species of livestock with varying housing and fencing needs can steamroll over you.

Making executive decisions is hard, but imperative. Cutbacks need to happen sometimes, even when you hate to let anything go. Remember that you, your family, and your animals will benefit from you doing fewer things but doing them better.

5. Remember. Think about the reason you got started in homesteading in the first place. Are you still headed in that general direction?

Some friends of mine amassed an expensive herd of registered miniature goats and came to the realization that too much of their time and money was tied up in buying, selling, and showing — so much so that there was inadequate room in their lives for their homesteading pursuits. They sold off the entire herd, purchased a few sturdy dairy goats, and realigned their goals.

Another reason to remember why you started is to reset your heart. In the same way that married couples can heal wounds from a fight by recalling what it was that made them fall in love with their spouse in the first place, homesteaders need to fall in love again with the ideals of homesteading every now and then. Both marriage and homesteading are too hard to do without love. Stop, roll back to the very beginning, and remember why you came.

Whether your homestead is a humble off-grid cabin in the woods with just you and a partner and a tiny vegetable patch, or a sprawling farmhouse filled with a big busy family teeming with activities both off and on the farm, you probably want next year to bring about more progress than the last. By shaping your resolutions within these five parameters, you may well set foot on the path that will lead to success in the New Year and beyond.

What resolutions would you add to our list? Share your suggestions in the section below:

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The 5 Very Best Cat Breeds For The Homestead

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The 5 Very Best Cat Breeds For The Homestead

Siamese. Image source: Pixabay

It is said that cats were domesticated around the time humans learned to farm and store a surplus of grain. The grain attracted rodents, which attracted cats, and it didn’t take long for humans and cats to figure out that they had a lot to offer each other. Some historians also have said that cats were self-domesticating, in that they basically moved in with humans without requiring much effort.

Regardless, cats are as important to the modern homesteader today as they were thousands of years ago. They provide companionship and keep crop-destroying and disease-carrying rodents, but not all cats are created equal. Let’s take a look at the five best cat breeds for the homestead.

1. Maine coons

The 5 Very Best Cat Breeds For The Homestead

Maine coon. Image source: Pixabay.com

A classic American breed, the Maine coon is a powerful long-haired cat which is optimized for the cold winters of Maine. Known as “the gentle giant,” these cats can reach up to 30 pounds or so in weight (although many are smaller) and they are extremely intelligent and friendly. If you raise one from a kitten, they can be leash-trained, taught to ride on your shoulder, and more.

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Their great advantage on the homestead, aside from being extremely loving and sociable creatures, is that they are rodent-slaughtering machines. My own Maine coon has destroyed much of the rat and mouse population around my house and has moved on to cleaning up the neighbor’s property, as well, much to their delight. This hearty northern breed is pretty much a must-have cat around the homestead or farm, and is perhaps the closest thing to a dog you can get in cuddly cat form.

2. Domestic shorthair

A fancy name for a cat of mixed ancestry with a short coat, these are among the most common housecats you can find. Because of this, you can probably readily adopt an outdoor acclimated domestic shorthair from a shelter (and shelter pets can be some of the most loving and loyal companions you can find). This will give you a natural mouser that is as much at home inside as out. Pick a healthy, stout cat if you want a mouser, or consider an older more mellow (and often overlooked) cat if you want an indoor companion that also can serve as a rodent deterrent.

3. Siamese cats

You’ll want to make sure your Siamese has a companion cat, or that you are home every day to be with it, because this highly sociable (and lethal to rodents) breed will get depressed when alone. Often overlooked as mousers, this ancient breed is more than capable when given the chance, and adds a distinguished touch to any homestead or farm. Consider them if you live in warmer areas where summertime heat could be too uncomfortable for a Maine coon. Siamese are very loyal cats and will often bond with a single person, making another excellent choice for companion and hunter.

4. Japanese bobtail

The 5 Very Best Cat Breeds For The Homestead

Japanese bobtail. Image source: Wikimedia

The traditional cat of Japan, and noted for its prowess in hunting, it is as sociable as it is lethal. Formerly relied upon to protect the silkworm industry from damage by rodents, it is an increasingly popular breed in the United States. Easily identified by its short hair, stumpy little tail, and often popular calico color, this is a breed rich in history that can easily earn a place on your homestead. This is another one that would be great for warmer weather locations due to the short hair, or if you are simply looking for a different sort of cat.

5. Feral cats

While not a breed, but a type, consider that there are many feral cats which are trapped, spayed or neutered and then released again. These are cats that have already learned how to survive outside and may only ask for a warm, dry place to sleep (like your barn or shed) and a regular supplemental diet of cat food to keep healthy and in good shape. Sometimes these are cats that once had a regular home and were abandoned, and will readily adapt to living with people again.  Talk to your local animal shelter or rescue if you think having a couple of relocated feral cats is a good choice.

Picking a Cat

While it is easy to say “breed X or breed Y” is a good mouser, and I am certainly proud of the hunting instincts of my Maine coon, the fact is any cat is a hunter, and the behavior is learned from the mother. While it is a given that any cat that has had to fend for itself is likely to be a skilled hunter, you will want a cat that shows classic stalking and hunting behavior and treats toys like prey animals instead of simply something squeaky and fun.

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Once you get a mouser or two for the homestead, you need to remember a few other things. De-worm them every six months and consider getting some basic medication like painkillers and antibiotics from your vet in case of an injury, especially if you live in a rural or off-grid setting, where proper medical care can be hours or more away. Cats are stoic little creatures and rarely show pain when injured, but still deserve the best care we can give them.

If your cat is going to be an outdoor cat, make sure it has a safe, warm and dry place to sleep, and give them food, because there is no guarantee that rodents alone will supply enough daily calories to keep them healthy. If your cat comes and goes inside and out as it pleases, then you’ve got the best of both worlds right there. And, of course, an indoor-only cat makes a marvelous companion and can take care of any odd rodents that might get inside.

Cats are wonderful creatures and have been living and working alongside human beings for thousands of years. There is no reason not to have a couple around your homestead doing what they do best: killing the rodents that want to steal the fruits of your labor. And all they ask for is a place to sleep, some extra food, and a kind scratch around the ears. Seems like a good trade to me.

What is your favorite cat breed? Share your tips in the section below:

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Moving the Bees

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Been a bad year for my Bees. Started off OK at home and then I moved them to the land but then was a big greedy and split them at the same time to give me five hives. That wouldn’t have helped, then I had issues with the queens and there were delays during the […]

The 5 Best Ways To Get Well Water Without Electricity

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5 Ways To Get Well Water Without Electricity

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Water is the key to survival. At least 60 percent of the adult human body is made of water, and we can live no more than three days without it.

Since most modern water pumps use electricity to obtain well water, you may wonder how you would access well water in the event of a long-term power outage on the homestead. Here are five methods:

1. Manual pump – With a hand-operated pump, you can obtain five to 15 gallons of water per minute, depending on the make and model of the pump.

Manual pumps, which can be used with or without electivity, require quite a bit of effort, but they are an economical and easy way to get water during a blackout. (Read our previous story on manual pumps here.)

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2. Solar pump – Another option is a solar-powered water pump, which can provide as much as 1,200 gallons for water daily, depending on the brand and model – and, of course, the weather.

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Solar pumps are fairly easy to install, and they can last for up to 20 years or so.

3. Wind-powered pump – Once a fixture on American farms, wind-generated pumps are cost-effective and require very little maintenance.

As with solar pumps, wind pumps are weather dependent, though. A back-up system, such as a manual pump, is important to have during calm weather.

4. Homemade pulley system – Think Jack and Jill and you’ll get the idea. With the use of a bucket on a pulley system, you may be able to access well water without a pump at all.

This system requires that you have the strength to lift and pull up anywhere from 20 to 40 pounds at a time. With an efficient pulley system, however, it can be much easier to lift.

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5. Diesel pump — Diesel fuel is a good alternative to electricity when it comes to powering a well. The pumps are relatively inexpensive and are easy to install. However, they do require a lot of fuel, so the cost of running a diesel pump varies with the price of fuel.

Which type of backup pump do you have? Share your well water tips in the section below:

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5 Things I Really Wish I Had Known Before Homesteading

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5 Things I Really Wish I Had Known Before Homesteading

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I have not always been a homesteader. Most of my adulthood has been spent living a lifestyle far closer to what is generally considered mainstream — suburban home, food from the supermarket and central heat.

Nine years ago, my husband and I embarked upon the steepest learning curves in our lives. Even though our previous lives had involved a great deal of outdoor activities and total immersion in the natural world, our new roles as homesteaders taught us so many new things so intensely that we often felt as if we were on a curve so steep we might fall over backwards.

If I could roll back the calendar and give myself a few pieces of advice, I would be sure to include the following five major tips.

1. Infrastructure is everything.

Fencing, gates, bridges, corrals, barns, woodsheds, run-ins, calf pens, kidding stalls, hay feeders, chicken coops, raised bed gardens, cold frames, high tunnels, arbors, traditional garden beds, greenhouses — the list of structures that need to be in place for purposes specific to homesteading are mind-bogglingly endless. The property we purchased had very little infrastructure in place and needed a lot of building, repairing and retrofitting in order to suit our needs. But we didn’t let that stop us — we forged ahead, sending for garden seeds without having enough garden space ready and acquiring animals before having adequate year-round housing in place.

We were far more optimistic and energetic than we had any business being, which ended up being both a blessing and a curse. On the downside, viewing situations through rose-colored glasses in those early homesteading days caused us to cast aside far too many real concerns with casual nonchalance. We were sure “we could always build that permanent fence later” and “there was plenty of time to repair the woodshed roof before winter.” We ended up backing ourselves up against the wall in many cases when “later” steamrolled right over us and winter didn’t wait for the completion of roof repair.

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It is far too easy to underestimate the time, energy, cost and potential roadblocks that often accompany infrastructure development. And when construction or repair takes place during the 11th hour — or even later — it can cause a lot of tension, and can even allow the roots of long-term discontent to take hold on the homestead.

On the other hand, optimism and energy are like superpowers. They carried us over rough patches, provided extra strength and courage when we needed it most, and helped us accomplish far more than we ever could have without them.

My advice to myself regarding infrastructure would be this: Stay ahead of it. If you get behind your infrastructure needs, you might never catch up.

2. Homesteading is so much work!

It won’t matter, we thought. The volume of work will be eclipsed by the fact that it is so rewarding and so personal and meaningful, we thought. The truth is, doing work you love and truly believe in really does make all the difference. And in our case, it made us able to do it. But at the end of the day, work is still work. If a homesteader works an off-farm job and then comes home to another 40 hours of work, it takes its toll on even the strongest and most resilient people.

Holidays, vacations or even sick days are hard to come by. Dairy cows have to be milked on Christmas morning, and tobacco hornworms will not take a break from destroying your tomatoes while you recover from knee surgery.

Here is my note to self: Do not underestimate the work required for homesteading. It will require very long hours of grueling, back-breaking, tedious, unrelenting hard labor. It will be worth it, but make no mistake. It will be tough.

3. Community is crucial.

I read a lot of books about homesteading before I started, from memoirs to manuals. One concept I ran across more than once in my reading was the impact of isolation upon homesteaders. I believed it, but I did not really get it. Not until I lived it myself. Spending long hours with nobody to talk to except cows and tomato seedlings sounds idyllic, and sometimes it is. But being completely on one’s own when a porcupine is entangled in the electric mesh fence or standing alone in a sweltering kitchen watching milk pasteurize for what feels like hours on end can make even the stoutest of homesteaders want to throw in the towel — and the canners and dung forks and milk buckets — and head back to the city.

5 Things I Really Wish I Had Known Before Homesteading

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It is loneliness, but it is more than just loneliness. It is the fact that there might not be many visitors — anyone who is willing to touch a homestead with a 10-foot pitchfork probably stays busy with a place of their own. It is the fact that while the rest of the world is weighing the merits of the latest hand-held device, you will be busy weighing the tiny newborn goat kid every day in hopes it will thrive. It is knowing that you are on your own, engaged in a lifestyle that most people cannot understand, with what sometimes feels like very little support from the outside world.

Age, accidents, sickness and disabilities are not friends of the homesteader. Neither is bad weather, predators and equipment breakdowns. My advice to my novice self is this: You will need real friends as a homesteader more than you ever needed them before. Relatives, neighbors, people from church, folks in the goat club — wherever they come from, make sure you and they are ready for the long haul.

4. Homesteading is not cheap.

Raising one’s own food rarely saves money. Sure, there are instances here and there where homesteaders save big. For example, I have paid a grand total of maybe $20 for garlic over a period of three or four years. I plant it every fall, purchase a few new varieties every once in a while, and use last year’s bulbs for seeds. And the eggs from my free-range chickens cost me almost nothing in summer.

But goat milk? Oh boy. When the occasional veterinarian visit and medications are factored in, and even a rare-but-crucial farm-sitting expense that allows us to show up at family weddings and funerals — and not to mention the time spent milking and sanitizing and feeding and shoveling if I paid myself even minimum wage! — that feta and chevre is worth its weight in gold.

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Meat is expensive, too. Feed and upkeep cost a lot, especially in a northern climate where an animal’s grazing and foraging opportunities are limited for much of the year. And then there is the cost of processing, which can more than double the actual cost of raising the animal.

Even vegetables can be costly. By the time one buys seedlings or heats a greenhouse to start their own, builds raised beds, buys ground cover, invests in tools, and amends the soil, they might have done better to just go buy sweet peppers at the market.

If I could offer myself advice, I would say to go ahead and endeavor to raise as much of my own food as I could. Knowing it is organic, locally sourced, and humanely raised is everything. Just know this: It will probably cost almost as much to raise your own as it would to buy it at a big box store.

5. There’s no room for softies!

Keeping livestock is not for the faint of heart. Eating meat is harder when that steak or pork chop once had a face — a face you petted and fed every day for months. Even if you do not raise meat animals, there are still difficult decisions. Disbudding. Castrating. Medical intervention. Lying awake at night worrying about whether the animals will be safe in the hurricane or adequately protected from predators. And even selling is hard — waving goodbye to a beautiful goat kid and covering your ears while his mother and twin wail in anguish is rough on those of us with marshmallow hearts.

My advice to myself nine years ago would be this: Know that along with the love and tenderness that comes with sharing your life with farm animals, there will be bits of agony.

Nothing about homesteading is easy, but for many of us, it is worth it. My advice to myself or anyone is simply this: Know that you are doing the right thing, but go in with your eyes wide open, both feet on the ground, and bracing yourself for the ride of your life.

If you homestead, what advice would you have given yourself?

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Cold-Hardy Livestock Breeds That Thrive Anywhere (Even In Alaska)

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Cold-Hardy Livestock Breeds That Thrive Anywhere (Even In Alaska)

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Editor’s note: The writer lives in Alaska.

Choosing the right livestock for your homestead is an important decision. You may know what kinds of animals you want — ducks, chickens, pigs, cattle, etc. — but how do you choose the right breed?

Too often when choosing a specific breed of livestock, the winter hardiness of the animal gets overlooked. When winter rolls around with her cold breath, you want to ensure you have livestock that will require little supplemental heat. Heat is energy, and when you’re already trying to keep your family warm, you don’t want to waste precious energy trying to keep your livestock warm unless it is absolutely necessary.

In this article, I will go over some of the common types of livestock people choose for their homestead and then explore some of the most winter-hardy breeds. For poultry, I will focus on breeds that are typically used for laying, assuming that any poultry kept through the winter will be primarily used as a source of eggs.

Choosing livestock that is appropriate for your geographical area is incredibly important and can save you a lot of time and energy while making your winter preparations.

Ducks

It is hard to find more winter-hardy poultry than ducks. Domestic chickens evolved from tropical regions and by their very nature deal much better with drier and warmer conditions. Ducks and geese, on the other hand, can handle much colder and wetter climates with ease. Another benefit of ducks is that they require a lot less added light to keep them laying. In some areas of the country, you may not have to add supplemental light at all.

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Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

Swedish Blue ducks are a winter-hardy bird that are known for both their meat and laying qualities. You can expect about 120-180 eggs a year from them, with males weighing about 8 pounds and females around 7 pounds. They do mature slower than some other breeds of ducks, however. Originating in Germany, they are very winter-hardy and have a calm temperament.

If you are looking for a duck for just egg production, I recommend the Khaki Campbell duck. The Khaki Campbells we have on our Alaskan farm keep laying straight through the winter, and we are still getting good yields from ducks that are over a year and a half old. You can expect 250-325 eggs a year from the Khaki Campbells and, while they are a smaller duck, they are extremely cold hardy. Males top out at about 4.5 pounds and females around 4 pounds. They are very noisy, however, and can be flighty birds.

Another duck you may consider is the Cayuga. They are very cold-hardy, and lay approximately 120-180 eggs a year. Males weigh about 7 pounds and females 6 pounds when mature. Although very loud, they are calm and only go broody occasionally.

Chickens

Chickens are a homestead staple. To have them lay throughout the winter, keep in mind that they will need added light during the darker winter months. Chickens lay best when they have at least 15 to 16 hours of light provided. When the amount of daylight dips below that, either keep a light on in their chicken coop, or set it on a timer to add the extra light needed when the sun goes down. Although you will need added light for chickens, if you choose winter-hardy breeds you may be able to avoid having to add extra heat.

If you live in an extremely cold climate where frostbite can be an issue, you’ll want to choose a laying hen that has a small comb. The Chantecler chicken is an excellent example of a winter ready chicken. Originally bred in Quebec, these chickens are made to handle the extremely cold winters of the Canadian prairie. They have small combs and wattles, making them resistant to frostbite and will lay throughout the cold winter months. They do have trouble in extremely hot weather, however, so if you live in an area with hot summers, these may not be the right chickens for you.

Another breed that we have been very happy with on our farm here in Alaska is the Black Australorp. The hens do have larger combs that could be susceptible if your winters are especially harsh, but they do extremely well in areas that have winter temperatures in the 10-35 degree Fahrenheit range. They are also prolific layers, laying 280 eggs a year or more.

Pigs

Although many homesteaders purchase piglets in the spring, raise them through the summer and then butcher them in the fall when the weather turns colder, there are several reasons you may want to keep pigs through the winter. Maybe you are starting to breed your own piglets for butcher or want to do two rounds of butchering a year instead of just one.

When choosing a breed of pig to carry through the winter months, I’ve found it most beneficial to look to the heritage breeds. Heritage breeds of pigs typically do better on pasture and are hardier for the outdoors. Breeds that are used in confinement operations, like Yorkshire crosses, will invariably be bred to live in conditions that have them inside year-round with an extremely controlled environment. Heritage breeds retain a lot of the characteristics that make them suitable to living outside, and if you choose breeds that originated in climates with colder winters, they should do just fine with minimal shelter provided from you.

After doing a fair bit of research, we finally settled on the Tamworth Hog for our Alaskan farm. One of the oldest heritage breeds found in the U.S., the Tamworth originated out of Ireland, where it was known for its ability to forage and grow on pasture. They have quite a bit more hair than some of your other breeds of pigs and do perfectly well in our winter climate. We know of one breeding operation in Michigan that lets their Tamworth sows give birth in the middle of winter with just a small shelter and straw, no added heat or attention. In addition to being hardy, the Tamworths are also extremely intelligent and very personable. We couldn’t be happier with them.

Although it is always tempting to get whatever livestock may be readily available to you at your local feed store, it is always worth the effort to carefully research and select breeds with climate in mind. The result will be happier animals and a more efficient homestead.

What are your favorite winter-hardy breeds? Share your tips in the section below:

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Environ-Home: Live Life Alongside the Environment With These Awesome Hacks

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By The Survival Place Blog

Making your home more environmentally friendly is important. You need to live a greener life alongside the environment. Becoming more self-sufficient is a wonderful way of making sure you improve survival skills and help care for the planet too.

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Solar Energy

We are moving towards a greener and more eco-friendly world, and this is a good thing. But we still have a way to go yet. So you need to do as much as you can to make sure you are as energy-efficient as possible. In recent years we’ve seen the likes of Chile’s Renewable Energy Conference show the importance of greener living. It doesn’t matter if you’re a business or an individual, renewable energy is the future for all of us, so we need to understand that and prepare for it.

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Grow Your Own Food

One of the key things you can do to have a greener life is to start growing your own food. And you’ll notice that more and more people are doing that these days. You don’t even need an allotment to do it. You can convert areas of your garden into a vegetable patch, etc. Growing your own food is a wonderful way to enjoy the freshest produce and save yourself some money in the process. It also allows you to learn the skills of planting and growing and feeding yourself naturally.

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Limited Technology

Technology is so prevalent in life these days that many people have forgotten how to do things without it. There are a lot of things we take for granted these days because we have technology to do it all for us. So, to enjoy a more natural life, you need to make sure you limit your technology usage. This doesn’t mean you have to go all out Amish. But, you should try to cut down on the amount you use, and, where possible, refrain from using technology. This will give you a greater appreciation of the outside world and how wonderful nature can be sometimes.

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Learn to Live off the Land

It’s important to learn valuable survival skills wherever you can, and that means living off the land. You can take weekend or week-long excursions to learn how to do this. You can also move to somewhere more remote so you can make full use of the natural resources that are around. Our ancestors used to live off the land all the time, and we have lost our way somewhat. If you can learn to do this, then you will have picked up some of the most valuable survival skills. It means that if anything were to go awry, and you had to survive in the wilderness, you’d be fine.

Having a more simple and stripped back existence is crucial for helping you live life alongside the environment. You want to try to turn your home into an eco-home and learn to live alongside nature a bit more. We get so caught up with technology these days that we wouldn’t survive without it. At least you’ll be okay if the apocalypse should hit!

This article was first seen at The Survival Place Blog: Environ-Home: Live Life Alongside the Environment With These Awesome Hacks

Filed under: How To Prepare, Prepping

5 Uses For An Old, Warn-Out Garden Hose (You Gotta Try No. 2!)

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5 Uses For An Old, Warn-Out Garden Hose (You Gotta Try No. 2!)

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The wise homesteader knows that everything – even used garden hoses – can be re-used and re-purposed.

More than likely, you will discover that your old hose is more useful than you originally thought.

Here are five uses:

1. Protect trees and crops.

Wires are sufficient for holding up trunks or branches, but they can cut into the wood of the plant and shorten its overall lifespan. However, if you thread that support wire through a piece of garden hose – or just use the garden hose by itself – then your plant will be protected.

2. Bucket handles.

A garden hose can be used as a grip for bucket handles or anything similar – making it easier to carry. Simply take a section from an old garden hose and then slip the wire of the bucket handle through it.

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This will provide a cushion for your hand when carrying a bucket filled with water over long distances. Another option: Slice the garden hose open and wrap it around the handle.

3. Car door/bumper protector.

Simply screw a length of an old garden hose to the bumper of any of your old vehicles. Or, wrap a section around the edge of a car door to prevent dings and scratches.

4. Soaker hose.

An old garden hose can be repurposed to keep your crops watered. Take a relatively long section of garden use and crimp or close off one end of it. Then, puncture small holes all along the hose. Bury the hose underground and next to your crops. You can hook the open end up to the faucet, or you can go more off-grid and pour water from a bucket into the hose. This is a very efficient way to water all or a large portion of your crops at the same time.

5. Protect tools.

Do you have any knives, machetes, axes, hatchets or other tools with sharp blades? If so, then take a long piece of garden hose and slice one end of it open. Fit the garden hose over the blade to keep it fully protected while it is being stored.

Do you know of other uses for old garden hoses? Share your tips in the section below:

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7 Dangerous Canning Mistakes That Even Smart People Make

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Autumn is filled with tons of chores for homesteaders: raking leaves, preparing the livestock for winter, and, of course, canning.

Canning is the time-tested method used by our great-grandparents and grandparents to extend the shelf life of food, and – if done properly – can form the core of an emergency stockpile. But if the right steps aren’t followed, the results can be disastrous … even deadly.

On this week’s edition of Off The Grid Radio we examine seven common canning mistakes that nearly everyone makes. Our guest is Kendra Lynne, a homesteader and canning expert whose DVD, “At Home Canning For Beginners and Beyond,” is one of the more popular tutorials for beginning canners.

Kendra, who also leads classes on canning, tells us:

  • Which mistake is the most common – and also perhaps the most dangerous.
  • Which types of foods should never, ever be canned.
  • Which vegetables should be used with a water bath canner, and which ones with a pressure canner.
  • Which mistakes can be easily corrected without buying any new equipment.

Finally, Kendra answers a much-debated question: How long will canned food really last? She also shares her best tips for storing canned foods.

If you’re a homesteader or just someone who enjoys canning, then this is one show you need to hear!

The Hidden Cash Source On Your Property

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How To Build An Off-Grid Home Without ANY Construction Skills

Homesteaders often spend most of their time devoted to their gardens and livestock, all the while ignoring a hidden gem just beyond their lawn: the woods.

Those thick brambles and gnarled trees are a homesteading goldmine and overlooked source of cash – but only if we know what to do.

This week’s guest on Off The Grid Radio tells us how homesteaders and off-gridders can use their wooded areas for everything from feeding livestock to making extra money. His name is Brett McLeod, and he is the author of The Woodland Homestead: How to Make Your Land More Productive and Live More Self-Sufficiently in the Woods. He also is a homesteader and a professor of forestry and natural resources at Paul Smith’s College in upstate New York.

Brett tells us:

  • How homesteaders can turn their woods into a cash source.
  • How wooded areas can be used as a low-cost way to feed livestock.
  • How downed trees can transform the way you grow vegetables.
  • How your woods can be used to grow foods you can’t grow in a traditional plot of land.

The good news, McLeod says, is that a woodland homestead can be as small as one acre. If you’ve always wanted to make use of your woods and didn’t know what to do, then this week’s show is for you!

Prepping For Winter: Essential Stuff That Homesteaders Often Forget

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Prepping For Winter: Essential Stuff That Homesteaders Often Forget

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Getting ready for winter when you live in the city is one thing, but winter readiness on the homestead is another matter. Not only are there more needs to fulfill and a wider variety of possible emergencies to consider, but there is often more distance to travel for goods and services.

Out on the homestead, you need to up your game. You don’t want to wait until a blizzard is bearing down on your homestead to make the 70-mile round trip to the feed store, take the risk that they might be sold out of what you need, and worry about your livestock facing the elements back at home while you search for another source.

Begin by making sure your winter readiness includes everything you need. Start with personal items that you cannot go without. It goes without saying that you will need food and water for human consumption. Boxed or canned food that can be eaten hot or cold are great choices, and you can never have too much clean drinking water. Consider keeping a loaf of bread in the freezer and a quart or two of shelf-stable milk on hand, as well.

Make sure you keep adequate stores of toiletries and hygiene items on hand throughout the winter. Stock up so that you don’t have to beat everyone to the stores when inclement weather is imminent.

Do not forget medications. Winter is not the time to practice “just in time” inventory management. As soon as your prescriptions are diminished enough that your pharmacy will refill it, do so. Foul weather, car trouble and sick kids can happen in the blink of an eye, so leave yourself enough wiggle room that unexpected events do not turn a snowstorm into a medical crisis.

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Have winter clothing on hand, too. Go through your closet and make sure last year’s long underwear still fits, there are no holes in your wool socks, the zippers work on your winter parkas, and that you have the hats and gloves and waterproof footwear you will need for cold and snow.

Remember your pets. They will not care if snow is falling and stores are closed when they run out of dog chow and kitty litter.

The time to fill up the heating fuel tank, have any needed well or septic maintenance done, and make arrangements to hire someone to plow your driveway is now — before the weather forecaster is wearing earmuffs and a sweater. And before the phones of the service providers are ringing off the hook.

Out in the shed and garage, you will want to have what you need to remove snow and ice from your car windshield, house roof, porches and decks, sidewalks, paths and driveway. Depending upon your neighborhood and climate, this could be anything from roof rakes to rock salt to ice creepers to shovels. But it is about much more than stocking up. It is about making sure your vehicles are winter ready. Check out the tires and change them over to snow tires if needed, make sure there is enough antifreeze in the radiator, and take care of any repairs and maintenance before the weather turns to winter.

Prepping For Winter: Essential Stuff That Homesteaders Often Forget

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Do not forget emergency supplies, from batteries to lanterns. But again, it is about more than buying and storing goods. If you have a generator, make sure it is running well. If you burn wood, see that the stove or fireplace and chimney are clean and safe. If there is a chance a winter storm can drive you from your home — if you have no way to heat it without power, for example — be certain you and your household have a rock solid evacuation plan.

Having all of these plans and supplies in place in preparation for anything winter throws your way is a great start. But if you are a homesteader with livestock, there is more to be done.

Your barnyard animals will need to be fed, watered, sheltered and corralled. Some of them might need medications, supplements and health treatments. In a worst case scenario, they might even need emergency intervention of some kind.

Make sure your fences, posts, gates, doors and chutes are ready for cold and can withstand a snow load. Pull up portable electric mesh fencing before the posts freeze into the ground. Ensure that infrastructure — barns, sheds, run-ins, chicken coops and other shelters — are in good condition, and tend to any shingles or siding or door latches that might need to be tightened up before the winds of winter howl across the homestead.

If you use heated water dispensers or heat lamps, get them out ahead of time and make sure they are operating. This way, if you need replacement bulbs or parts, there is still plenty of time to send away for specialty items.

As with food for humans and pet, staying ahead on hay and grain during the winter months is crucial. Even if you cannot store enough for the entire season, store as much as you can, replenishing and rotating as you use it.

Before winter hits, go through your stores of emergency treatments and medications. Replace items that are dried out or contaminated or expired, and add any new items you might need for livestock maladies and injuries to your kit.

Make sure you bring products sensitive to cold indoors if your barn or tack room will dip below freezing in winter. Even if it is not damaged by the cold, many gels and pastes are easier to use when thawed.

By preparing for winter in advance, you can save time, money and anxiety for everyone. If you can sit back and relax in the face of snow and cold instead of standing in long lines for basic groceries or braving icy roads on your way for essential supplies, everyone wins.

What winter readiness advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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Plan for a Debt-Free Christmas This Year

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A debt-free Christmas is possible! There are too many tales of people who finally pay off their Christmas shopping in time to build up the debt again. Don’t be one of them – or if you are, it’s time to stop. No one really wants you to go into debt in order to buy them […]

The post Plan for a Debt-Free Christmas This Year appeared first on Just Plain Living.

How To Mouse-Proof Your Home For Winter

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How To Mouse-Proof Your Home For Winter

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You don’t have to live next to a farm, field or forest to have a large mouse population in your neighborhood.

Mice are the ultimate survivors, and they thrive anywhere they find warmth, shelter, water and food. They may not bother us during spring and summer, but as the chill of autumn weather appears they look for better alternatives. Unfortunately, that often means our homes and cabins. There are a variety of steps you can take to diminish and resist this invasion.

Mice are prolific breeders. One female can produce up to eight litters a year, with six to 10 mice per litter. That means a single mouse can produce 80 other mice who will also breed and reproduce. The affect can be exponential, and that’s why this is often an ongoing battle against the furry little rodents.

Try to Seal Off Access to Your Home or Garage

This is not as easy as it sounds. A mouse can squeeze through the smallest spaces and gaps between your foundation and framing.

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But you have to start somewhere and here’s where to look:

  • Start in the basement and inspect any gaps in your foundation. If you shut off the lights in the basement, you may see daylight peeking through gaps or cracks. You can seal these with a patching cement, caulk, spackle or even steel wool. Mice are notorious for chewing through wood and just about anything else, so a patching cement might be your best bet if it’s an unfinished area and cosmetic appearance is not as important.
  • Check for any holes or gaps in your garage, whether it’s attached or freestanding. Garage doors are often left open for various periods of time, and that’s an invitation for mice to hide under and around things in the garage while they search for an entrance to your home.
  • Eaves and soffits aren’t out of reach for mice. Mice are good climbers and a tree or vine gives them a pathway to any gap or hole in an eave or soffit. Caulk works, or repair with new wood and re-caulk.

Eliminate Accidental Food Sources

  • Look for food left in or around spaces frequently occupied where food is consumed.
    • Did the kids leave some potato chips on the floor in front of the video game?
    • Did some organic garbage fall on the floor in the garage by the garbage cans?
    • If you have pet food, make sure none of it got scattered around by your pet, and seal the food in a sturdy plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.
    • Any food storage space can become a destination for mice, and mouse droppings in stored food are especially dangerous. Make sure any food storage is well-protected either in metal cans or sturdy plastic pails or containers.
    • Grass seed and wild bird seed in the garage are also mouse magnets. Make sure they’re in sealed containers and on a high shelf.
  • Check for incidental water sources.
    • I’ve often found a dead mouse floating in the sump-pump well. Try to seal the top to restrict access.
    • Wet spots in the basement also create water sources. Seal cracks or areas where seepage pools water. You should probably do this regardless of the mice, but if you’re unaware of the problem, this inspection step can help you remedy it.

Trapping and Eradicating Mice

How To Mouse-Proof Your Home For Winter

Image source: Pixabay.com

There are a variety of options for mouse eradication, and you should consider them carefully, especially if you have pets or children in the house. Some of the approaches are traditional and time-tested, and some fall in the category of new technology.

General Trapping Advice

  • Mice are nocturnal animals, which means they come out at night. As a result, they will be most active not only at night, but in a dark room. Shut off the lights and check your traps in the morning.
  • Mice hug the walls when they travel. They are skittish and nervous animals and like the reassurance of a wall next to them as they move around. They will foray into a dark and open space for food and water, but your best location for any trap is along walls and in corners or under furniture next to a wall or corner.
  • Yes, you can reuse any trap, and there is some evidence that the scent of a dead mouse actually attracts other mice to a previously used trap. That’s up to you. Wear rubber gloves if you take this approach.
  • Traditional bait for mouse traps is cheese or peanut butter. I prefer sharp, cheddar cheese pressed around the trigger so the mouse has to exert some pressure to get the cheese. I’ve had many occasions when the peanut butter on a spring trap was successfully licked off the trap without springing it.

1. The traditional spring trap. We’re all familiar with this mouse trap. It’s a small, rectangular piece of wood with a snapping bar sprung by a spring when a piece of cheese or peanut butter is consumed from the trigger.

  • Pros: A quick kill that is inexpensive and allows you to discard both the mouse and the trap. It’s also highly effective.
  • Cons: Potentially dangerous to both kids and animals who may innocently trip the trap.

2. Glue traps. Glue traps are a cardboard box shape that have a strong contact glue on the bottom of the trap. Sometimes you add food to the back of the trap and some are already scented with an attractive scent for mice.

  • Pros: These traps are also inexpensive and are specifically designed to be disposable. They’re also pet and toddler safe.
  • Cons: Probably the least humane mouse trap. I’ve hunted and fished for years and I’ve always hunted and fished to eat. But I’ll confess that when I used these traps, it broke my heart to see a small mouse squeaking and looking at me with a paw reaching out trying to free itself from the glue. I actually tried to get it loose so I could release it in the forest, but the glue was too strong. I dispatched it quickly and got rid of the glue traps. They work, but I don’t use them anymore.

3. Live-catch traps. There are many variations on this type of trap. The concept is that they can get in, but they can’t get out. They’ll catch anywhere from one to six mice at a time, depending on the size and type.

  • Pros: It’s a humane option requiring you to find a distant location to release the mice. You also can capture mice in bulk if you get one of the larger traps. Most are baited with some type of food or food combination and are usually made of metal so they can be washed and reused. Also, they are pet and toddler safe.
  • Cons: They cost more but because they’re reusable, that’s not a big issue. They also tend to be somewhat large and visible, so they’re OK in a basement, but on the kitchen floor they stand out a bit more than you might like. Also, when you release the mice, make sure it’s a good distance from your home. The backyard is just going to invite them to try and get back in, and your neighbor may not appreciate it if you dump them in their backyard.
How To Mouse-Proof Your Home For Winter

Image source: Pixabay.com

4. Mouse poison. Mouse poison is a box of small, edible pellets that are usually made with corn and permeated with a potent poison. The mice eat the poison and will often run to an open space to die, although sometimes they will die in a hidden space and the only way to find them is the smell of a dead and rotting animal.

  • Pros: This type of eradication is often used in barns, sheds and other locations that are hard to access or check on a regular basis. It’s also used for large infestations when single traps just can’t do the job.
  • Cons: Be very careful with this one. Some stores won’t even sell it for liability reasons. Regardless of how well you hide it, a pet or toddler can die from ingesting it. In the old vernacular it was called “rat poison.” When our dog was a puppy he ate a box, and fortunately my wife caught him doing it. We rushed him to the vet and he put some eye drops in his eyes that caused him to immediately vomit. Sure enough, the tray was filled with the little, green pellets. He survived but it cost us $200 to learn the hard lesson about mouse poison.

5. Ultrasonic sound. There are products on the market that broadcast a high frequency sound that is supposed to repel mice. I’ve never tried them and they might work, but I worry that they might also affect a pet dog or cat. There are enough versions of this type of product on the market to make me think it works, but I have found mixed reviews on Amazon.com

  • Pros: They’re safe for children and if placed properly may actually repel rodents with little effort.
  • Cons: Many of these products imply they will repel rodents in a broad range, from mice to rats, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, raccoons and possums. That’s what concerns me about cats and dogs.

6. Chemical repellents. These are repellents that you spray in areas where mice enter or reside. They usually come in a plastic bottle with an adjustable spray, from mist to a direct stream.

  • Pros: They’re easy to apply across a broad area or areas.
  • Cons: Some people don’t like spraying chemicals around their homes, although there are natural versions on the market. Also, the scent eventually fades. so you have to reapply from time to time.

Keep at it!

After you have tried one or more of the above methods, be vigilant to see if the mice have returned. Droppings are a clear sign they have, as is chewed paper or cardboard shreds.  If you think they’re back, don’t hesitate! Once they start reproducing you’ll be back to the battle again until spring.

What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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11 Crazy, Insane Ways You Can Repurpose Old Milk Jugs (Our Favorite: No. 3)

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11 Crazy, Insane Ways You Can Repurpose Milk Jugs (Our Favorite: No. 3)

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Homesteaders are notorious for finding ways to repurpose items. Nothing gets thrown away without it being thoroughly evaluated for other uses.

Consider, for example, milk jugs. There are plenty of ways you can use those milk jugs that don’t include storing drinking water.

Check out these 12 uses:

1. As a weight. Fill the jugs with water and use them to hold down a tarp. Put a rope through the grommet on the tarp and run it through the handle on your milk jug. They can help hold down a tarp or tent that is threatening to blow away.

2. As a mini-garden. Fill the jug with potting soil. Drop a tomato, cucumber or pepper seed in the top. Poke a few holes in the bottom for drainage and use the jugs as containers for your patio or window garden. It helps if you add a layer of gravel to the bottom of the jug and then add the soil. It makes it easier for the soil to drain. You also can cut off the top half of the jugs and use the bottom halves as basins for your potted plants.

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3. As a mini-greenhouse. Cut off the bottom inch or so of the jug. Place the jug over newly planted seeds or plant starts. The jug will act as a mini greenhouse and give you a jump start on spring planting. They can also be used to protect plants from freezes in the spring or fall.

4. As an outdoor organizer. Cut off the top few inches at a diagonal angle, leaving the handle intact. Cut a small section off of the bottom of the handle to create a hook. Fill the jug with clothespins and hang it on your clothesline.

5. As seed markers. Cut the jug into strips and use a permanent marker to mark on them. Use them to mark seeds in potted plants or the garden.

11 Crazy, Insane Ways You Can Repurpose Milk Jugs (Our Favorite: No. 3)

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6. As a candle holder. Cut off the top one-fourth or so of the jug. Fill the jug with sand or gravel and pop your emergency candles into the center of your filler. The sand or gravel will hold your candle upright and protect it from breezes that would blow it out. Place the jugs around your campsite or inside the house to use as pathway lights.

7. As a scoop. Cut the top at an angle, leaving the handle intact. This creates a scoop. You can use the scoop to get water from a river, barrel or your pond. You could also use the scoop for animal feed.

8. As food storage. Use the jugs to store dry goods like rice, beans and oatmeal. This gives you an easy way to pour out exactly what you need and seal the rest up for later use. Make sure you label the contents and the date on the outside of the jug. Store the jugs in the pantry and out of the direct sunlight.

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9. As a wall. If you have a plethora of jugs, you could fill them with sand or gravel and make a wall or even a shelter! The filled jugs would act as insulation. They could be used to make a mini-root cellar or even a small barn for chickens or rabbits.

10. As a greenhouse heater. Paint the jugs black. (If you can’t, that’s OK — it will still work.) Fill the jugs with water. Place them in the greenhouse. Throughout the day, the jugs will heat and warm the water. At night, the warm water in the jugs will release some heat and help keep the temperature warmer in the greenhouse.

11. As fishing bobbers. Throw out your line with your milk jug bobber and get busy building your shelter, chopping wood or foraging. A milk jug bobbing up and down is much more obvious, and you will be able to see it from just about anywhere along the bank.

You can probably think of hundreds of other ways to use those old milk jugs. Think outside of the box and you will come up with some pretty clever ways to keep the plastic out of the landfills.

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10 Versatile Plants Every Homesteader Should Grow

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How To Build An Off-Grid Home Without ANY Construction Skills

Our ancestors were experts at living off the land, and that meant knowing everything about the plants around them – plants that they used for food, medicine and shelter.

Sadly, most people today no longer have those skills, but the author of a new book is trying to help us regain all of this valuable knowledge.

On this week’s edition of Off The Grid Radio we take a look at 10 of the most versatile, multi-use plants you can grow – many of which likely are on your property. Our guest is Tammi Hartung, an organic farmer and the author of Cattail Moonshine & Milkweed Medicine: The Curious Stories of 43 Amazing North American Native Plants.

All of them can be planted right now, during the fall, and all of them have tons of uses.

Tammi tells us:

  • Which forgotten plant provides one of the best anti-viral berries for winter colds.
  • Which plant is high in Vitamin C and is so healthy it’s used in the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Which easy-to-grow plant is useful for making pillows and blankets.
  • Which common tree produces not only food but a strong dye for staining furniture and even clothes.

If you are a homesteader who likes to find multiple uses for plants – or you simply want to know how our ancestors once lived – then this week’s show is for you!

9 Things Newbie Homesteaders Just Don’t Think About

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9 Things Newbie Homesteaders Just Don't Think About

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The “back-to-the-land” movement continues to grow in America, and if you’re one of those who’ve made the big leap from city to country, or are planning to do so soon, here are a few things you’ll want to remember.

The more knowledgeable and prepared you are, the easier the adjustment will be.

1. Get ready for some big culture shock. Country folks are easygoing people who may come across as peculiar to many city folks. You may not see them hustling, bustling and stressing over things city people normally do. Rural residents view things and do things differently. They may talk to you as if you were a life-long friend.

They’ll be curious why you moved into their area, what your business is, what you and your family are all about. They’re just being friendly and welcoming. They might even go out of their way to say hello and share some fresh produce or canned preserve.

9 Things Newbie Homesteaders Just Don't Think About

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2. Don’t expect to save money from homesteading at first. The initial outlay can come as a big shock. Animals, a barn, fencing, farm equipment … the list goes on and one. You’ll find that no matter how much budgeting and belt-tightening you do, something will always come up that needs building, fixing, adding or improving. Be patient. Developing a homestead is a long, complex process, and it’ll take years before you see some regularity in your spending.

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If you break even in your fourth or fifth year, you could consider that an accomplishment. But remember, the returns on your investment won’t all come in the form of money but in intangibles: fresh produce, savings from grocery purchases, bartered stuff (or service) from neighbors. Further rewards can be expected in the long run — better health and hopefully fewer medical bills.

3. Start small and slow. Try to do only one project at a time, at a pace you can handle. Whether it be gardening, poultry raising, carpentry or canning, remember that each skill will take time for you to learn and perfect, and some effort to overcome challenges that come along. It’s easy to get carried away acquiring a couple of more hens, or getting another pair of cute pygmy goats. But be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. (Tip: It’s better to fail in a garden that on livestock. Dying animals can cause a lot of grief, especially if there are kids around.) Then, when you feel comfortable with that first project, feel free to launch into something else.

9 Things Newbie Homesteaders Just Don't Think About

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4. Start low-tech. Don’t buy modern equipment just because you saw an advertisement for it, read some good reviews, or observed your neighbor using it frequently. Start with basic hand tools that are practical and versatile, and work your way from there. You’ll find out soon enough what pieces of motorized equipment you’ll need in your particular set-up, and you’ll be more knowledgeable as to what features to get if you put off that big purchase at a later time. Plus, you won’t have a shed full of expensive machinery that you only used once.

5. Learn to DIY. If you live dozens of miles from the nearest town, or if roads can become impassable due to bad weather, you’ll have to have a well-stocked pantry and medicine chest. Always have essentials on hand, or learn how to make them. Try bottling your own healing oils, tinctures and natural remedies. Learn first-aid treatment and emergency care. Your and your family’s survival could one day depend on it.

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Likewise, brush up on some handyman skills. Get familiar with the basics of plumbing, electrical, automotive, computer and refrigeration repair. There are lots of practical skills you can learn, and as you acquire them, you’ll be surprised at how fast you’ve become more self-reliant.

9 Things Newbie Homesteaders Just Don't Think About

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6. Expect long, 12-hour workdays. The garden needs to be tended, the goats milked, the muck raked, the produce canned … and so on with many other chores. Of course, there will be slow seasons like fall and winter, but if you have livestock, there will always be animals to feed and milk. Year-round.

7. Learn to deal not only with garden pests but also with wildlife. Snakes, coyotes, foxes, deer, mites and all kinds of critters and predators will be your life-long enemies.

8. Know the local laws. Learn about what and up to how many animals you can keep, what kind of additional structures you can build, and all other pertinent regulations in your local area. You don’t want to run into problems after you’ve built that treehouse in your yard or dug a hole for a pond.

9. Expect setbacks and failures. Despite your best efforts, you’re bound to experience setbacks. Life happens. Crops fail, animals get sick or die, a well or creek dries up. There will be things that just won’t go as you had hoped or planned. But flops are only failures if you don’t recover and learn from them. There’s always a new alternative to try, another variety to grow, another breed to raise … and another time and season to do it all over again. Just learn from your mistakes and move on. Stay positive and don’t quit.

What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

References:

4 Tips for Starting Out Homesteading, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9DCH1lAKoE

My Top 5 Best Tips for the Beginning Homesteader April 2015,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APwcBjHprAc

Tips for New Homesteaders, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRX3zP5Ce4c

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Preparing The Wood Stove For Winter: 7 Critical Tasks

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Preparing The Wood Stove For Winter: 7 Critical Tasks

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I have three wood-burning stoves: a wood-burning cook stove in the kitchen of my cabin, a box stove with a glass door in the living room, and a boxwood, cast iron stove in the garage.

I’ve learned the hard way that some general inspections and maintenance can go a long way toward preventing problems when the weather gets frigid.

While there are some routine maintenance checkups and repairs we might consider, creosote is a major problem and threat in any wood-burning stove.

Creosote is a buildup of carbon-based chemicals in a stove and especially in stovepipes and chimneys. There are a variety of causes that lead to creosote buildup:

  • Burning green or unseasoned woods that create excessive smoke and release numerous chemicals into the smoke.
  • Burning at a low temperature, which also creates excess smoke.
  • The effects of temperature on a stovepipe, especially through a cold, unheated space like an attic that causes the smoke to cool and coalesce on the sides of a stovepipe.
  • A clogged or inefficient stovepipe cap that does not vent properly.

This is not to say that wood-burning stove maintenance is all about creosote, but it leads to a strategy for how to maintain stoves for winter. Here are seven steps homesteaders and users of wood stoves should follow before winter arrives:

1. Start at the top. Check the hood on your stovepipe top and make sure the spark arrester screens are clean and clear. They will often rust with time and result in holes in the screen or become clogged. This will affect airflow and efficient burning. If you’re afraid of heights, then hire a chimney sweep.

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2. Sweep the chimneys and stovepipes. A chimney sweep can do this, or you can do it yourself if you buy the right size chimney brushes and the long handles that screw into each other to reach down the length of the stovepipe or chimney. This removes creosote (and you will always have some), and cleans out any other debris that may have found its way into the chimney or flue.

3. Vacuum. My sons and I use an industrial wet/dry vac that we bought at the local hardware store. They’re not that expensive. We start by vacuuming any of the debris or creosote that’s landed in the wood stove firebox after the chimney sweeping. Then we work on the firebox.

Preparing The Wood Stove For Winter: 7 Critical Tasks

Image source: Pixabay.com

4. Scrape the firebox. Every firebox will also have its share of creosote and other residue. Wear a mask over your mouth and nose and maybe some safety goggles and scrape the side of the firebox with a metal brush, and perhaps a metal scraper. Vacuum everything up and inspect the interior with a flashlight to see if you missed anything, but don’t get too fussy about it. You’re just trying to get the crusty stuff off the walls of the firebox.

5. Check door gaskets. Every wood-burning stove has a door on the firebox. This door has a gasket that will tolerate the highest temperatures and is usually a synthetic, braided rope glued in place with a compound that can tolerate high temperatures. When a gasket gets old or compromised, it can allow smoke to escape from the stove, or air to enter the firebox in an uncontrolled manner. You don’t want this to happen.

Visually inspect your stove door gasket and if you smell smoke when you burn, it may need to be replaced. There are numerous videos on YouTube that show you how to do this, and anytime you buy a new gasket kit from your wood stove supplier it will always come with instructions.

6. Clean the glass. Many wood-burning stoves have a glass insert in the fire door. It is a glass designed to tolerate high temperatures, but often there will be a buildup of a brown residue on the glass over time. You can scrape this with a razorblade, but there are chemical solutions that will remove this residue without the risk of scratching the glass.

7. Polish and sharpen up the outside of the stove. Our wood-burning stoves are often a prominent part of our décor in our homes and cabins. They also rust and show some wear and tear. There are many solutions to this, from paints to other applications that can refurbish the look of a wood-burning stove.

These are available online or at stores that specialize in wood-burning stoves. Follow the directions, but keep one thing in mind. Your next fire after painting or refurbishing your wood stove is going to result in a smell that will fill the room if not the house. Now’s the time to open the windows and burn off that new exterior coating or paint. You don’t want to be smelling this on a night when it’s 10 below zero Fahrenheit and opening a window or door is a problem.

The other benefit of an early fire before you really need it is the ability to check for smoke leaks in the stove pipes, check air flow and check for smoke leaks. You want to do it when you have the option to make corrections and fixes before you are totally dependent on the stove for heat. Most of these maintenance steps require a cold stove with no fire. That’s not something you will have in January if you’re totally dependent on wood stoves for heat.

What maintenance tips would you add? Share them in the section below:

Are You Prepared For Extended Blackouts? Read More Here.

Things That Make Splitting Wood Simpler, Easier & Even Fun

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Things That Make Splitting Wood Simpler, Easier & Even Fun

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When maple leaves are glowing red and gold, Canada geese are honking overhead, and patches of white frost accent the path to the barn, it is time for homesteaders to turn their attention to seasonal matters.

The rhythms of those who heat their homes with wood vary from person to person. Some stay a full year or more ahead on their firewood, cutting and splitting all their wood for the winter of 2016-17 during the year 2015. Others get the current season’s wood done just in time to chuck it into the woodstove as the snow starts flying. Most of us hit it somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.

No matter how far ahead you may or may not be, you probably like to take advantage of the cooler autumn temperatures to split firewood. And now that wood-splitting season is upon us, it is time to get serious and get ready. If a weekend set aside for firewood processing is in your future, make sure you have all you need to keep things running smoothly from start to finish. Here are some things you may have forgotten – things that will make the day’s task much easier.

First, make sure your wood splitter is tuned up and running well. Assuming you use power equipment to aid in splitting your wood — be it powered by electricity, gas or a tractor — you will want to have it in the best working condition possible. Having a malfunction which slows or stops progress can be frustrating, so be proactive about having it ready. Take it to a shop or do the work yourself, but take care of whatever is necessary to prevent breakdowns and sluggish operation.

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Have a supply of fuel ready. Keep in mind that some small-engine mechanics warn that gas older than 60 days ought not be used in small engines, and make sure you have the gas cans topped off so you will not have to interrupt the flow of work to go for a fuel run. If your splitter is PTO-driven, make sure you have enough diesel fuel for the job.

Do not forget lubricant for the log table. This is a small item but one which ought not be overlooked. I am fastidious about spraying my splitter table every time I start it up, and the occasions when I used up the last can and forgot to replace it or it got misplaced have resulted in delays. If you live out in the country where stores are a long drive away, little things like this are even more crucial to gather up ahead of time.

Have an axe or hatchet handy. Having at least one piece of wood put up a fight is almost guaranteed. Bucked-up firewood has a mind of its own, and will sometimes twist around a knot or pull apart in sinewy portions that are difficult to master. A quick chop with an axe is a great remedy.

Things That Make Splitting Wood Simpler, Easier & Even Fun

Image source: Pixabay.com

If you live in an area where snakes pose a threat or if you have an aversion to them, you will want to keep something within easy reach for possible encounters. Firewood piles make excellent snake habitat, and you will want to have a way to deal with them if needed. A long handled axe or hoe close by is good insurance.

A pulp hook is often useful for moving and lifting firewood. Using a hook gives the user better control, more leverage, increased arm length, and creates a little more space between him-or-herself and potentially dangerous moving logs.

Ear protection is advisable. Gas-powered wood splitters are loud, and muffling the sound is a good idea. While it may be tempting to go without ear defenders when splitting with other people so as to convey information, it is useful to consider that you probably cannot hear them well enough to communicate verbally anyway. Instead, consider developing a plan that includes a few unmistakable nonverbal signals when working with others, for the sake of safety and ease of operation.

Make sure your gloves are the right ones for the job. Many people prefer leather gloves, but my experience has found them to be slippery — which is very dangerous when handling wood, as it can result in less control of the wood and possible foot injuries — and they tend to wear out quickly. I inherited a pair of knit fabric gloves with rubbery palms and fingers one year when a farm hand left them behind, and I have since thrown away every other pair I had and begun purchasing the fabric-and-rubber types by the dozen. I find them to grip wood well, fit comfortably, and last longer than leather.

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One final thing to make sure you have ready to go on firewood-splitting day is a collection of good friends. Not only do many hands make for light work, and particularly with firewood processing projects which easily lend themselves to being done assembly-line style, but they make for fun as well.

If you do have friends and family show up to help, be sure to have plenty of cold drinks and snacks available for the whole crew. You might even need to consider a barbecue after the work is done if you want to make sure they return next year.

As with any tasks involving power equipment, make safety a priority. If goggles, chaps, steel-toed footwear, and a helmet seem like a good choice for you and your work team, do not hesitate to use them.

Splitting and stacking firewood for the winter are some of my favorite homesteading activities. I cannot promise that by following the above steps will transform it from a detestable chore into a fun time, but being prepared can often alleviate some of the stress and aggravation that can go along with any big job. And when you are enjoying the warmth of a cozy wood fire while the snow is falling outside in winter, you will know that your wood-splitting work was worth the trouble.

What wood-splitting advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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Composting 101: Essential Fall Chores Every Homesteader Should Do

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Composting 101: Essential Fall Chores Every Homesteader Should Do

Image source: Pixabay.com

An invaluable resource on the homestead, compost is easy to create and maintain in a relatively small area on your existing acreage. It revitalizes nutrient-stripped soil and helps to maintain a balanced pH level throughout it, in addition to encouraging the growth of beneficial microbes.

Much has been said about the benefits of composting your kitchen waste in recent years, but for the homesteader, composting goes far beyond just reducing waste in your home.

Even the best composting systems require a bit of attention when the seasons begin to change. Whether you are using commercial barrels or drums, homemade fence-style bins, or open windrows, a few fall composting chores will ensure your soil gets nourishment throughout the winter months. This, in turn, will make sure that you have a new supply of rich compost come spring for established gardens and fields and any additional acreage that will be planted.

Following harvest, clearing the garden beds is an essential chore, and vegetable plants left to decompose in the garden often introduce diseases into the soil. However, before you add those plants to your compost, set aside your remaining summer compost so that it can be used anywhere in the garden that won’t have a cover crop.

Composting 101: Essential Fall Chores Every Homesteader Should Do

Image source: Pixabay.com

Put your garden to bed by covering it with a layer of this finished compost. Layers as deep as three inches work best. This will allow nutrients to start assimilating into the soil during the winter months, as well as protecting the soil from acquiring agents that cause many common plant diseases. Moreover, compost can be incorporated again in the spring before planting begins, adding additional nutrients to the soil.

The All-Natural Fertilizer That Doubles Your Garden Yield!

Restocking your compost system, or even starting one, is simple to do in the fall months. Fallen leaves and dried garden plants, free of seeds, provide a nearly endless supply of brown material for composting. If there are not a lot of leaf-dropping trees on the homestead, then ask friends and neighbors if they would donate their leaves. Many of them will be more than happy to part with bags of leaves collected for disposal.

All of the scraps left over from putting up late summer fruits and vegetables, as well as from used livestock bedding and the last grass clippings of the year will provide the necessary green material for a healthy compost system. If the ratio of green material to brown material seems too low, then consider finding a source, like your local coffee shop, for coffee grounds. The coffee grounds will make an excellent green addition to a compost pile.

To maintain a healthy compost pile you may need to water the pile, as the breezy days of fall can quickly dry them out. Compost should be moist, but not wet. This also means that a cover may be needed in the wet winter months that follow. How frequently you should turn the compost also should be considered. Turning the pile frequently will speed the rate of decomposition, but in late fall it may be better to allow the pile to rest. Compost that is finished will begin to release its nutrients immediately, so allowing it decompose more slowly through the winter months is to your advantage.

What “fall compost” advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

Bust Inflation With A Low-Cost, High-Production Garden. Read More Here.

Homesteading and balancing all that weight!

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Homesteading and balancing all that weight! Renee “The Homestead Honey Hour” Chances are, if you homestead, you also engage in several of the following activities. Work off-farm, have a family, take care of livestock, keep a large garden, preserve and put up food, heat with wood, and home school, Maybe you also run a home … Continue reading Homesteading and balancing all that weight!

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How to Stay Within a Budget

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Keeping a budget  – that is, staying within it consistently over a long period of time – can be challenging. If keeping to your budget seems like an insurmountable task, you’ll be happy to know that there are ways to stretch your budget and still enjoy a quality lifestyle. I promise – you can live well […]

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Snakes Are Out & About. Take Care!!!

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A coastal taipan. Photo: Richie Gilbert
Toddler ‘dies for six minutes’ before being revived by paramedics after being bitten by taipan snake three times.

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Our Ancestors Used Farm Animals VERY Differently Than We Do

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Our Ancestors Used Farm Animals VERY DIFFERENTLY Than We Do

Image source: BoswellFarms.com

In modern society, we walk or drive down the street to find all kinds of food, many of them unrecognizable to our pioneer ancestors. (Thai noodles?)

For the hardy pioneers, however, a few animals could mean the difference between starvation or survival. Even if animals were too plentiful to be fed through the winter, they could be slaughtered as the season progressed and then sold for cash, which could then be used to buy staples such as flour or corn. Animals even could be bartered for other necessary items.

Most homesteaders have livestock of some kind, but if times get worse, it might be a good idea to know all the ways our ancestors used animals. You might be surprised.

Farm Animals

In order to survive the harsh winters, many pioneers had a hard rule that went something like: “It works or it’s food.” So while dogs were kept, they were considered working animals. Eating dogs is not something most people would do; however, in a pinch most people will eat just about anything.

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This means that our ancestors kept animals that either worked for them or that they ate.

  • Pigs – These were always a favorite as they ate just about anything and are also easy to breed. The fat from pigs could be used for soap and lamp fuel, and one good-sized hog could feed a family for a long time, with bacon to spare! Pigs were usually allowed to forage in the woods and were not always kept in pens or barns.
  • Chickens – Always a favorite, chickens provide both eggs and meat. They are easy to keep because most of the year, they can simply forage for insects. Grain need only be provided during the coldest winter months.
  • Sheep – For the pioneers, sheep were valued for their wool, which provided clothing, but also for the meat. Lambs were more commonly consumed than adult sheep, but this isn’t to say that when other food sources became scarce, that a sheep wasn’t butchered to make stew.
  • Cows – Cows were highly valued, but they were expensive to keep in the winter if you did not have enough hay stored. Some pioneers took their chances and left cattle out in the woods to survive the harsh winters. Stories of pioneer families forced to butcher and sell most of their cattle during a hard winter were not unusual.
  • Horses – While most of us like to think of the pioneers owning beautiful horses like the ones we see in the movies, most horses were working horses, such as Clydesdale or draft horses. These were intended for pulling wagons and plows. Some pioneers were fortunate enough to have a horse just for riding, but horses also mean hay and grain in the winter months, making them fairly expensive.
  • Mules – Mules have more stamina that most horses and are more surefooted when it comes to rocky or mountainous terrain, but like horses, they, too, need grain to keep them in top condition.
  • Oxen – This was generally the animal of choice for pioneers making their way to the West coast. If they survived the trip, oxen could then be used to plow fields and pull wagons. Oxen are not very fast, but they eat whatever vegetation is available and need only hay in the winter months. Also, because they aren’t very fast, Native people were not really interested in them and if they escaped a barn, they were fairly easy to catch.

Other Food Animals

Our Ancestors Used Farm Animals VERY DIFFERENTLY Than We DoSome animals that were popular food items during pioneer times aren’t eaten quite so often today. Some of these are:

  • Rabbits – Easy to breed, cheap and easy to feed. The fur could also be used to line boots, jackets, or to make blankets.
  • Turkeys – Although pioneers did not take turkeys with them on their journey, someone figured out that if you caught a pair or took some chicks and raised them, they were quite similar to chickens. Today, most of us only eat turkey for special occasions, such as Thanksgiving, but for the pioneers, turkey meat was consumed about as often as a chicken.
  • Geese or ducks – While most ducks were hunted or trapped, a few domestic ducks found their way to the plates of the pioneer, along with geese. Geese are very easy to keep, especially if the land has its own pond or lake. No extra feeding is required, although many pioneers did supplement with grain to keep the goose fat.
  • Doves and/or quail – Doves and quail are not much meat, but they eat relatively little and breed quickly. Added to meager soups or stews, doves and quail would be a welcomed source of meat.

Miscellaneous Animals

As mentioned, if animals weren’t being kept for food, they needed to be kept for work. A few animals that were often kept strictly for work were:

  • Dogs – Especially hunting dogs or herding dogs, although even a mutt would keep raccoons, wild dogs, bears and intruders from coming on the property. Hunting dogs and herding dogs were especially valuable. They would often be bred, and the pups sold for cash or in exchange for other items or work.
  • Cats – Not the pillow princesses we see today, cats kept in pioneer times were mostly for keeping mice and other rodents out of barns, houses and food storage areas. Although they might enjoy the fireplace during the winter months, they were rarely fed, as they were expected to find their own food.
  • Donkeys – These animals might be small, but they can carry a fairly heavy load and are very sure-footed. For carrying small amounts of items to and from the market, donkeys are hard to beat. They are not picky eaters and are fairly easy to keep.
  • Bees – Some pioneer farmers came to realize the importance bees had on their orchards and kept a few hives. Of course, in addition to pollination, bees offered honey, which was a real treat for the pioneer who generally relied only on maple syrup from trees or molasses for a sweet treat.

Our ancestors were tougher than we ever imagined. You won’t find many gerbils or hamsters mentioned in the history of the pioneers!

What thoughts would you add about pioneers and animals? Which ones do you think would be most important today? Share your opinion in the section below:

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5 Pieces Of Cast Iron Cookware No Homestead Should Be Without

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5 Pieces Of Cast Iron Cookware No Homestead Should Be Without

Image source: Lodge

The use of cast iron for cooking is a nearly global standard in any culture that has mastered the casting of iron. Durable, long-lasting and easy to make, cast iron has been surpassed in recent years by other lighter materials, but remains very popular with discerning cooks and those who enjoy the simple, traditional tools of our ancestors.

Because it is so tough, a well-cared-for piece of cast iron cookware can become a functional heirloom passed down through generations. However, even without considering the huge amounts of antique and vintage cast iron available to the consumer, there is plenty of current production cast iron cookware, and much of it mimics the patterns that have been popular in America for well over a century. It is generally held that a homesteader should have at least one quality piece of cast iron cookware, but we think there are five pieces every well-equipped homesteader should have.

1. The skillet

Cast iron skillets come in a great number of shapes and sizes. The number it is marked with basically corresponds to its internal diameter (i.e., a No. 8 skillet should be about 8 inches in diameter inside). The No. 8 skillet is about the most popular size out there and should serve as the workhorse of your cast iron collection. Ideally, you should have a glass or iron lid to match it. In a pinch, you can do most of your cooking in a good skillet, making it highly versatile. Other common sizes include the diminutive No. 3, which is ideal for cooking an egg or two, and the larger No. 10, which is great for cooking up a big mess of food. You’ll probably want a couple of different skillets that suit your unique needs.

2. The chicken fryer

A variation on the skillet theme is the so-called “chicken fryer,” which is nothing more than a regular  No. 8 skillet made taller to accommodate the volume of oil needed to deep fry chicken on your stovetop.

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Naturally fitted with a lid, this is a must-have item of cast iron cookware if you enjoy fried chicken or other deep-fried food. As a bonus, it is deep enough to cook soups, chili and stew, making it a very useful tool in the kitchen. However, these aren’t as easy to find as they used to be, so you may be forced to turn to the secondhand market.

3. Dutch ovens

5 Pieces Of Cast Iron Cookware No Homestead Should Be Without

Image source: Flickr

Dutch ovens are nothing more than large cast iron pots with lids, and come in two forms: indoor and outdoor. We are probably all familiar with the outdoor ones fitted with legs and a deep lid that can hold coals, and these certainly are important. Their indoor cousins are just as useful, rounding out a kitchen with a rugged pot good for everything from deep frying to making stew. Commonly a stovetop Dutch oven will have a lid that fits a No. 8 skillet, making them a natural pairing.

4. Griddles

Cast iron griddles come in all shapes and sizes, from long rectangular shaped ones to round ones with handles. The longer ones are commonly used across two burners on a stove, allowing for a cooking area and a warming area, while the round ones with handles are about perfect for cooking pancakes, tortillas and other flatbreads, or anything else you might cook on a griddle.

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I find this pattern to be the one I use most, but your mileage may vary. If you can, you might as well get both, because like guns, nobody ever complained about having too much cast iron cookware!

5. Corn muffin pans

OK, so perhaps this is less a “must -have” and more a “really nice to have.” These charming little pans put out small loaves of cornbread-shaped-like ears of corn, and properly used, have a delightfully crispy exterior. A classic pan our grandparents or great grandparents would have used to put out delicious food that was a step above the usual cornbread, it’s not hard to find these pans even today. I like them because I like cornbread, and because I remember my own grandmother cooking with one. The cornbread they put out goes great with a simple bowl of beans or chili, and even makes a great snack or lunchbox item. Either way, they echo back to a time when food preparation was both simple and infused with great personal pride, and looked quaint on top of everything else.

Conclusion

U.S.-based companies like Lodge and the venerable Wagner crank out literally tons of cast iron cookware of all sorts for discerning consumers, and you are likely to find any sort of cookware you need from them. If you enjoy collecting antiques, there are hundreds and thousands of vintage styles of cookware and dedicated collector organizations. Some pieces are very affordable, and even cheaper than buying brand new, while others can be very expensive.  Everything described in this article can be found without great expense. While nasty Teflon-coated aluminum skillets are cheap, and there is a lot to be said for some of the better grade stainless steel and glass cookware, at the end of the day, nothing is as classic, rugged and pleasant as a good piece of cast iron.

Do you agree? What would be on your list? Share your thoughts in the section below: 

If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do. Learn More Here.

Feeding a Large Family (Without Breaking the Bank)

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Grocery budgeting for a large family has its own unique challenges. When I take my whole family to the grocery store, we often get looks. And people remember us. After I’ve been to a grocery store twice, if I show up alone, I’m asked where all the children are. Now, granted, I don’t think that […]

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Operation: Lower Heating Bills CHALLENGE!

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Freeze your buns – let’s revive this “lower heating bills challenge” and have fun while doing working together to lower our heat and hot water costs. Do you live in an older house? Concerned about high heating bills? Those two questions don’t necessarily go together, but they often do. Unfortunately far too many older homes […]

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Keeping a Pantry: 8 Reasons That Will Convince You

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Keeping a pantry – who does that anymore? Well, you have a convenience store in your home that you didn’t even realize. It’s your pantry! A lesson I learned from my Grandmother who grew up during the depression was to always keep your pantry well stocked. I’m Kim and you can find me sharing at Homestead Acres. […]

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7 Free Things You Can Build With Wood Pallets

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7 Free Things You Can Build Using Wood Pallets

Image source: Pixabay.com

If you are looking for an inexpensive way to make a variety of wood projects on your homestead, look no further than shipping pallets. Many large retailers and distribution centers will let you haul away wood pallets they cannot use for free or for a nominal fee.

Lots of companies re-use their pallets for return shipments. Always call first to see if pallets are available, and never assume that pallets stored outside at a facility are free for the taking.

Not all pallets are alike. Pallets usually are marked with either the letters “MB,” which means they have been chemically treated with methyl bromide, or “HT,” which means they have been heat treated. Other pallets may have been pressure treated with preservatives.

If you are planning a project for your garden or for the interior of your home, avoid chemically treated pallets and pressure-treated pallets. Also, if the pallets smell bad or appear to be infested with bugs, leave them be.

When you choose wisely, however, pallets can become the basis for a wide variety of easy home and garden projects. What’s more is that items made with this form of reclaimed wood tend to last and last.

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Here are seven ideas for pallets in and around your homestead.

1. Vertical planter — The very way pallets are constructed makes them ideal for use as an attractive and practical vertical planter.

Materials

  • one 25 inch x 38 inch pallet
  • roll of landscaping paper
  • sandpaper
  • staple gun and staples
  • hammer and nails
  • potting soil (2.5 cubic feet)
  • succulents, herbs or other small plants

Instructions

  1. Sand the rough spots on your pallet and use some pieces of scrap wood to add some support to the back of your pallet.
  2. Double or triple the landscaping fabric, and then staple it along the back, bottom and sides of the pallet, carefully folding in the fabric at the corners so soil will not spill out.
  3. Place the pallet flat on the ground and pour soil through slats, making sure you allow enough room for your plants. Press the soil down firmly.
  4. Starting at the bottom and ending at the top of the pallet, begin planting your plants. Add more soil as needed to make sure plants are tightly packed.
  5. Water plants thoroughly and let the pallet remain horizontal for about two weeks. After plants begin to take root, you can hang it upright.

Here’s a video demonstrating this:

 

2. Room divider

You can make an attractive, rustic-looking room divider for your home with wood pallets. The number of pallets you need depends on the size of the room and the style of the divider you want to create. Here are a few clever ideas.

Story continues below video

 

 

3. Shoe rack

Are shoes taking over your entryway? This idea is such a natural for pallets, you will wonder why you didn’t think of it before.

Story continues below video

 

 

4. End table

There are some lovely examples of pallet end tables on the Internet. You can make a sturdy accent piece for your living room or a bedroom by using reclaimed pallet wood.

Story continues below video

 

5. Chairs

Do you like the traditional styling of Adirondack chairs? You can make one yourself with a pallet.

Story continues below video

 

6. Garden tool organizer

The slats in pallets make them a good choice for a garage or shed organizer for your rakes, shovels and other long-handled garden equipment.

Here is a standing rack option:

 

7. Pallet headboard

Last but not least, you can use pallets to create a simple-but-creative headboard for your bed. Here are some directions to get you started:

Once you get started working with pallets, you are sure to come up with more ideas of your own. Here is a video that showcases some attractive and useful items – including some of the ideas in this article as well as others — made with pallets.

What have you made with pallets? Do you have any advice? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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Drying Food – Everything You Wanted to Know

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You have wondered about drying food, haven’t you? Otherwise you wouldn’t be here. Get ready because this 5000+ word post should answer all of your questions and get you well on your way to dehydrating like a champion. I’m not kidding – this is the ultimate guide to dehydrating your own food at home. We’re going […]

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Life In The Remote Wilderness!

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Life In The Remote Wilderness – Could You Do It? Karen Lynn “Lil’ Suburban Homestead” Could you live in the remote wilderness?  Karen Lynn says she could rough it for a while but doesn’t know if she is as tough as Ron’s wife Johanna. Ron Melchiore is an Outdoorsman, Pioneer, Homesteader, Remote Exploration Camp Manager … Continue reading Life In The Remote Wilderness!

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High-Value, Low-Maintenance Crops For The Busy Homesteader

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High-Value, Low-Maintenance Crops For The Busy Homesteader

Image source: Flickr

Gardening is time-consuming for any homesteader or off-gridder, and the smart gardener is constantly looking for ways to make it easier.

Perennial crops are one of the easiest ways to save time, in that you only have to plant them once for them to keep producing. They are rare in North America gardens, but are the gift that keeps on giving!

The most common types of perennials are asparagus, rhubarb and artichokes. They require very little maintenance and can be harvested in the event of an insufficient production of annual crops.

We can trace perennial crops to European settlers, who came to North America and brought their knowledge and seeds, along with other skills such as drafting animals for plowing. In temperate climates, like most of North America, perennial root, starch and fruit crops were purposely bred, selected and cultivated. They favored the perennial crops because they didn’t require much input to get a large output. Only hand tools were necessary.

Benefits of Perennials

The problem with annuals is that they are very limited in terms of production seasons. They must be re-planted and re-grown every year, and you must worry about transplanting annual seedlings or waiting out the heat in the summer. Perennials may be grown year-round, and they will be strong and ready to produce long before those annuals are ready to be harvested.

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Not only are perennials trustworthy, but they are also a great fertilizer to both themselves and nearby plants, because they fix nitrogen in the soil. They even have the ability to provide a safe haven for helpful insects and pollinators. Furthermore, some have the ability to climb up nearby structures to provide shade for surrounding plants.

Disadvantages of Perennials

There are several drawbacks to perennial vegetables, despite their numerous advantages.

High-Value, Low-Maintenance Crops For The Busy Homesteader

Image source: Pixabay.com

First of all, some are very slow to establish before they yield well. An example of this would be asparagus. I’ve had asparagus plants for several years, and it is important to let them grow more than the span of a few seasons. The general rule is to plant them and don’t touch them until the third year, when they should only be harvested, very lightly, for one to two weeks. Four years in, they can be harvested for two to three weeks. Over the age of five, you can harvest four to five weeks. (They can last 20 years or more!)

Other disadvantages include the associated bitterness. They can become bitter once they begin to flower. So, they must be harvested early in the season, in some cases. Some perennials also have really strong flavors that aren’t appealing to North Americans.

Some perennials require such little care that they may soon overtake your garden. They must be carefully placed in a permanent space in the garden and maintained separately.

Furthermore, perennials have unique pest and disease challenges, simply because crop rotation cannot be utilized to minimize problems. If they do, in fact, catch a disease, they might need to be replaced.

Examples of perennials commonly cultivated in North America include the following:

  • Raspberries, blueberries, and other berry bushes
  • Asparagus
  • Rhubarb
  • Kale
  • Garlic
  • Dandelions
  • Horseradish
  • Sorrel
  • Lovage
  • Watercress

Perennials are perhaps the most useful plants out there. They are dependable, easy to manage, and typically an attractive addition to the garden.

What advice would you add on perennials? Share your tips in the section below:

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Build Your Own Do It Yourself Homestead

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Build Your Own Do It Yourself Homestead Karen Lynn “Lil Suburban Homestead” I’m so excited to interview Tessa Zundel blog owner of Homestead Lady and the Author of The Do It Yourself Homestead – Build Your Self Sufficient Lifestyle One Level at A Time. Karen Lynn had Tessa on a previous show on this very network click … Continue reading Build Your Own Do It Yourself Homestead

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Understanding the Difference Between Heirloom and Hybrid Plants

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When shopping for plants at your local garden center, you may notice some are marked ‘heirloom,” while others are labeled “hybrid.” Have you ever wondered what these terms mean – or which is better for you? Do they even matter?

These terms seem to create a lot of confusion among novice and experienced gardeners alike. There are those who swear that heirlooms are the only way to go because they think hybrids plants are inferior. On the other hand, hybrid fans are convinced they are a better all around choice, because they tend to be more vigorous producers and are less susceptible to disease and pests.

In reality, there may be room in every garden for both types of plants. To better understand the distinction between heirloom and hybrid plant varieties, it helps to look at how they came to be.

Are you ready for a quick crash course in heirlooms and hybrids?

Pinterest heirloom hybrid

Open-Pollination vs. Careful Manipulation

Open-pollination (a term you really need to understand) is a form of plant reproduction which occurs in one of two ways:

1.    Cross-pollination (in the context of open-pollination) occurs when two varieties of the same plant species reproduce due to natural pollinators, such as wind, birds or insects.

2.    Self-pollination occurs when a plant possesses both male and female parts and can reproduce by itself. Self-pollinating plants, such as tomatoes, breed true to the parent plant and do not require isolation to avoid contamination from other varieties.

The term “heirloom” refers to older, well-established varieties of open-pollinated plants. These plants have developed stable genetic characteristics over time. Often, classic heirloom varieties evoke a sense of nostalgia because they were often found in the gardens of older generations. In fact, heirloom seeds can become an important part of a family’s history as they are passed down from one generation to the next.

Hybrid plants, on the other hand, are the result of highly controlled cross-pollination between different varieties of the same species of plants. Although cross-pollination can and does occur in nature, the results are too random to be reproduced and marketed on a mass scale. Therefore, the hybrids you see in stores are not open-pollinated like heirloom varieties.

In order to sell a hybrid variety commercially, its breeding must be carefully monitored in order to ensure the same characteristics are present across all plants sold under that name.

Unfortunately, this high level of human involvement in their development causes many to believe hybrid plant varieties are also “genetically modified.”

Are Hybrid Plants Genetically Modified?

No. Hybrid plants and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are NOT the same thing.

This is a really common confusion and I hear it from people who really should know better.

Once again, the difference between the two goes back to how they are created.

Hybrids are the result of highly controlled cross-pollination between two varieties of the same plant species. The resulting progeny will contain characteristics from each parent plant, just like if the two had crossed in nature. In fact, the process duplicates what nature does, except under a very controlled environment. Instead of relying on bees to pollinate, for example, plant breeders might use delicate brushes to remove pollen from one desired parent plant to the other.

GMOs are the result of scientific manipulation at the cellular level. See the difference? In a lab environment, plant cells are altered through the addition of outside substances like pesticides or DNA from other organisms. So-called ‘negative’ genes may also be removed in this process. The end result is a new organism that wouldn’t occur in nature without this type of manipulation.

To make it very simple and clear – if you are willing to do the work, you can certainly becoming a plant breeder and create your own hybrids. In fact, farmers have traditionally been the ones who had done just that. You cannot, however, create GMOs in your backyard.

There is a lot of concern and discussion surrounding the long-term safety of GMOs because they have been introduced into the food supply without any long-term studies to confirm their safety. Today, there is a lot of concern that GMOs may be linked to cancer and many other health problems.

As consumers become more aware of the presence of these substances in commercially processed foods, many are choosing to adopt an organic, whole food diet.

In an effort to avoid GMOs, some are also avoiding hybrid plants unnecessarily.

Which is Better: Heirlooms or Hybrids?

There is no right or wrong answer to that question. I definitely grow both.

Heirlooms are often treasured for their delicious flavor, while many hybrids are prized for their vigor, high yields and superior disease resistance.

Hybrids can also be seedless, like English cucumbers, and many of them are designed specifically for greenhouse growing, which allows gardeners to extend their season.

The biggest difference between the two is this:

Heirloom varieties grow true from seeds.

You can save and use their seeds year after year and get uniform results. Hybrids do not offer that type of genetic stability. Plants grown from the seeds of hybrid plants are unlikely to look or perform like the plant from which the seeds were collected.

So, if you like to collect and grow your garden from seeds, or if you are concerned about the future of the seed industry, heirlooms are the best choice. Take the time now to grow out your heirloom plants and learn how to save the seeds.

In the meantime (or if that doesn’t matter to you), hybrids provide a wide variety of safe – and non-GMO – options. Even if you grow some of your garden from heirloom varieties, you can still fill in the gaps with highly productive hybrids.

The post Understanding the Difference Between Heirloom and Hybrid Plants appeared first on Just Plain Living.

The Big Move and What It Means to My Readers

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It’s happening. It’s really happening. Financing, paperwork, everything is in order and …. we are moving September 30. Now it’s time to let all of you know where we’re going, what it means for us and, most definitely, what it means for all of you.

If you have already read my soul-baring Time for a Change post, you know that we’ve made the difficult decision to leave our cabin in the woods and move “to town”. I already knew the place where I wanted to live because of its proximity to health care, family members and much more. The issue was that, in such a tiny community, there is a small selection of homes for sale at any given time. And homes that met all of my criteria are even more scarce.

So I left that up to God. Which is a good thing because He is better at that miracle thing than I am.

Pinterest big move

 

When I started forming in my mind what my dream home would look like, and especially after I saw a few homes that were certainly not right, it became clear that I was looking for:

  • an older home (I find that new homes lack charm and character)
  • that was large enough for my large family (at least three, but preferably four, bedrooms), and
  • had a separate dining room (because six people plus guests!)
  • and main-floor laundry because I’m not getting any younger (but older homes don’t have that!), and
  • was near enough to town but not TOO near (you know, something riiiiiight on the outside edge of town limits so that I could have town access without town problems), and
  • already had a root cellar and cool pantry storage for home-canning (because why not look for the impossible?)
  • had a good south/north orientation for solar panels, even though older builders never paid attention to that.
  • A good yard, flat and usable, would be nice, but I already have a rural property and I didn’t need huge acreage.
  • Preferably, the asking price was less than $100,000, too (because I’m nuts – even in rural Nova Scotia, that’s asking a lot!)
  • It wouldn’t hurt if it were within earshot of train tracks for my train-crazy autistic boy (which just dropped my searching range)
  • but the balance would really be tipped if it needed only cosmetic repairs. Most of the places in our price range need a lot of very expensive, very difficult repairs (like a furnace that didn’t work “because of frequent flooding” or a roof that was caving in, or upstairs bedroom doors that started before the stairs ended!).
  • And please God, I started adding recently, can I have a dishwasher? Doing dishes by hand for six people is an all-day job even when you have plenty of energy, and I don’t anymore.

Pretty specific, right?

And some of those are things that just don’t seem to go together. How could a home like that exist? Especially when the area where I was looking was very small. But I prayed and I waited on God’s timing, and wondered how we could possibly find a home and get moved before the winter. And it turned out we didn’t have to wait very long at all. I’m still blinking about how fast this happened.

Next time I think I’m going to pray to win the lottery because we are closing on THAT house on September 30.

I mean, no exaggeration – every single thing I wanted for my dream home is in this house. It was listed as 81 years old, but that seems to be a guess and there are indicators that it is much older than that.

There are four good sized bedrooms, a main floor laundry, and a big kitchen – with a built-in dishwasher.

There is a full bathroom upstairs and a secondary toilet and shower in the laundry. The laundry is huge since it was converted from the parlour (or, as it’s known in Nova Scotia, “the good room”).

It’s not acreage, but it’s a good yard.

There is space for my children to run inside. a good sized yard to play outside, big enough to have a kitchen garden, raspberry bushes, even rabbits or quail, and a 30×6′ mudroom off the back door when the weather is bad. There’s also a vacant lot next door that I’d like to eventually get.

The trains go by, just four lots away, a few times a week. Because I grew up in a small town, with the train going through daily back then, it’s a familiar, comforting sound to me.

While there’s not really a basement, there is a dug out root cellar (which needs some work) and storage room under the house. Absolutely perfect for my needs and not something that would be found in a modern home. In fact, that’s probably one of the reasons we got it for such a great price. Imagine – people would rather a finished basement over a root cellar!

The previous owners have taken amazing care of the house, so it is sound and needs only cosmetic repairs. The wiring and plumbing are all up-to-date.

And the price was … well within my budget. I like when both the bank and the insurance company are impressed at the purchase price.

House
Now isn’t that a home for four children?

One big downside is that the reported fuel oil usage for the house is horrifically high. I need to start an all-out effort to bring the cost of heat and hot water to something more manageable than …. $450 per month, year round. Told you it was high. (And if you comment that you’re paying more than that, you’ll want to follow along as I bring that down!) Now when it comes to glasses being half-full or half-empty, I’m more of a “my cup is overflowing” type, so what I see is a challenge to use everything I’ve ever learned about energy conservation!

Another challenge is the house was carpeted sometime in the 1970s and, while shag carpeting is wonderful on cold toes, it’s ugly and filthy (no matter how much it’s vacuumed) and must go.

stairs in house
See the carpet on the stairs? It’s in both halls, too.

There are two beautiful mature trees in front of the house that, unfortunately, are blocking all of my sun. They need to be removed so that we can add solar power. Which we will certainly be doing!

What will all of this mean for my readers?

Well, a lot.

I have been a city homesteader, an “out in the boonies” off-grid homesteader and now I’ll be homesteading in a little village outside town. It’s still very rural by anyone’s standards, with less than 200 houses in the village.

My readers follow the same range – from city dwellers who will probably never own land to a very small number of full-time off-gridders deep in the woods.

What I have wanted for a while is to keep my information relevant and helpful to all who are seeking a more sustainable and self-reliant life. When the majority of my readership, though, needs to know how to lower their power bill, I am not offering a lot of helpful information. And so while I no longer get to be “that strange off-grid lady”, I can take everything I’ve learned from three years off-grid and apply it to creating a sustainable and self-reliant home in the village.

After the move, what can you expect from me?

A lot, actually!

  • food storage recipes, and perhaps another cookbook, that include freezer cooking, home-canned foods and food from the root cellar, because most of you are not simply relying on pantry and canned foods
  • small space and indoor gardening
  • a return to small scale food preservation – cheese making, sausage, bacon, etc
  • energy-saving ideas and tutorials because we need to get the $450/month heat and hot water bill on this place to something reasonable, and I’ll document all that we do
  • DIY personal care
  • self-improvement articles
  • videos and webinars – you’ll see my face more because with grid-power and non-LED lights, I’ll be able to do that
  • more personal finance, budget and frugal living
  • renovation and home repair posts as we work on making this house not only eco-friendly (and solar powered) but return it to its original beauty.

There is a lot to be done, and this will be the practical, immediately useful information that many of my readers have been wanting.

Let the adventure begin!

Or wait … I’m not moving for another month.

And now I’m going to get a bit spiritual on you.

As I was coming home this week after church, I was thinking about how the house is ours. It really is. The paperwork is all signed. The bank and realtors and lawyers and the seller are all in agreement. The question everyone was asking at church was not “Will you get it?” but “Did you get the house?”  The bank and realtor both said, “Congratulations. It’s yours.”

And yet – there are no keys in my hand.

The lady who sold it to us is still living in it, and we’re still in our moldy old cabin. We will be here for another month. A very long month, to be honest, because I want to move immediately! It might be our house now, but that doesn’t change the day to day reality that we’re experiencing at the moment.

What I want you to take a moment (or two) and think about is that God’s promises are often like that.

Just ask Abraham and Sarah who waited decades for a promise that seemed utterly impossible and were then given a command from God that seemed like it would undo everything. (It strikes me as amazing that Abraham told his men that “the lad and I will go up, worship and come back.” Now there’s faith!)

Sometimes we receive the promise long before we ever hold the keys in our hand. Sometimes, in fact, we are called to do things that look like they’ll destroy the promise.

We know that He will meet our needs but … well, that bank account looks empty.

We know that He will work all things in our favour … but right now those tears are burning as we cry our hearts out in pain.

We hear a calling or leading from God and follow gladly … only to stand and wonder “Wait – this doesn’t look ANYTHING like what You promised!”

It’s very difficult at times to look around the moldy cabin and know that you have a beautiful home. Believe me, I understand.

Which do you focus your mind on – the evidence of your eyes or the promises you have received? That is going to make a huge difference in what you experience and how you react to both.

In Hebrews, we are told that faith is the substance (that is, the actual reality, the true existence) of things hoped for, the evidence (that is, conviction, assurance, true knowledge) of things not seen.

If you’ve been waiting for a promise from God, I urge you to rest in faith and know that you have it. Behave as though you have it. Praise God as though you have it.

Don’t lose heart during the wait between “It’s yours” and the actual experience of holding it in your hand.

The post The Big Move and What It Means to My Readers appeared first on Just Plain Living.

22 Survival Items (Other Than Food And Water) Your Stockpile Needs

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22 Survival Items (Other Than Food And Water) Your Stockpile Needs

Image source: Duracell

 

Stockpiling is the life of the homesteader and survivalist, and it seems like there’s always something new that we find we need to add to it. For many, this means mostly food, but you shouldn’t stop there.

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in stockpiling food that we forget other important things. So, I’m going to share with you some of the top needs I’ve seen — many of which are way too easy to overlook in our stockpiling process.

1. Medicines

We all get sick from time to time. Fortunately, our bodies are pretty good at healing themselves from a lot of that, but sometimes they need help. A few common medicines in your supplies could help ensure your long-term survival, as well as helping you deal with more common problems.

Start with over-the-counter medicines. There are a number of things you can buy which will help you deal effectively with day-to-day colds, the flu and those aches and pains we all face. For those, you’ll want to be sure you have:

  • Antihistamine
  • Decongestant
  • Cough suppressants
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Pain relievers
  • Loperamide or Imodium for diarrhea

In addition, you want to make sure to stock up on antibiotics, if you can. Although you usually need to have a prescription to buy antibiotics, you can buy veterinary versions without a prescription — or if you go to Mexico on vacation, you can buy them over-the-counter in any pharmacy.

Don’t forget any prescription medications that family members need. Those are even harder to stock than antibiotics, and will probably require the cooperation of your family doctor. But many will cooperate, if you explain why you want them. They understand the need and are likely to support your efforts to protect your family.

2. First-aid supplies

Medical help is typically overwhelmed in any crisis. Not only that, but it’s often much more difficult to get to where the medical personnel are. With the chances of injury increased, you’d better be ready to take care of them yourself.

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The good thing is, learning first-aid isn’t really all that hard. A few lessons from your local Red Cross or in online tutorials will go a long way toward helping take care of any injuries your family might experience. Supplies, without knowledge, are all but useless.

3. Batteries

Most people think about batteries, but they don’t think about them enough. Consider how many things you have that use those batteries.

You also need to think about the odd-sized batteries that you use. More and more, we find compact electronics using lithium-ion button batteries — what we once called hearing-aid batteries. If you don’t have a stock of those batteries, as well, then the devices that use them will eventually become useless. Take an inventory of all the different types of batteries you use and make sure you have a stock.

Another thing to look at is rechargeable batteries. Most of us have at least some solar power. If you do, then make sure that you can recharge batteries off of it, especially for your most-used electronics, such as radios and flashlights.

4. Candles

22 Survival Items (Other Than Food And Water) Your Stockpile Needs

Image source: Pixabay.com

Regardless of what light sources you might have, you will probably end up resorting to using candles at some point in time. Candles have the distinct advantage of simplicity, meaning that we can make them ourselves, if needed. All we need is a source of wax, such as a beehive.

The problem with candles is that they only burn so long. You actually need quite a few candles to make it through even a short blackout. So, this is one of those items that you might want to just keep on collecting.

I buy candles at garage sales, where they go for a dime on the dollar, or less. I then melt them down and pour them into spaghetti sauce jars, making my own “survival candles.” Most of these are made with multiple wicks, allowing the candle to put off more light.

5. Candle wick

Speaking of candles, stockpile a spool of candle wick, as well. A couple hundred feet of candle wick will allow you to keep making candles. Regular cordage doesn’t work so good, so for the minimal investment this takes, it’s worth it.

6. Firewood

Most homesteaders and survivalists are planning on heating and cooking with wood in the event of any disaster that takes out the grid. Wood is a renewable resource and one that we can harvest ourselves. But it takes a lot of wood to make it through a winter. You really need to have about six cords of firewood in order to have enough. Of course, if you’re going to be cooking on wood all-year long, then you’ll need more.

7. Fuel

Firewood isn’t the only kind of fuel you’re going to need. While that might be your main heating and cooking fuel, what about everything else? Not only will your car be parked without gasoline, but your chainsaw, your lawn mower and your roto-tiller, as well.

While we may have to get used to living without cars and trucks, those other tools will be even more critical in a survival situation. Having fuel to roto-till your backyard and turn it into a garden will be a critical survival need. So will being able to cut down trees and convert them into firewood.

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But gasoline isn’t the only fuel you may need. If you have kerosene heaters or oil lamps, you’ll need fuel for them, as well. How about propane? Do you have a propane barbecue grille? Are you planning on using a propane camp stove? Granted, there are other options for any of these things, but they aren’t easy ones.

8. Butane lighters and fuel

It has taken years, but I’ve finally moved away from matches as my standard fire-starting tool. I’ve come to realize that a butane lighter is much more efficient, allowing me to light about 1,000 fires and being more compact than a waterproof match container that holds less than 20 matches.

22 Survival Items (Other Than Food And Water) Your Stockpile Needs

Image source: Pixabay.com

But while many people have opted for disposable butane lighters, I’ve chosen to go with quality. There are a number of reasons for this, most especially because I like having a lighter that the wind can’t blow out. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had more frustration from wind blowing out a lighter that I was trying to use to start a fire, than I care to remember.

A quality, windproof lighter is about the best option around. Most of these are piezo-electric, striking constantly while the gas supply is on. That’s how they make them windproof. Even if the wind tries to blow them out, they relight immediately. They are also refillable. So, a couple of cans of butane lighter fluid will keep you striking a light for years.

9. Flashlights

I have to confess, I’m a bit of a flashlight collector. I don’t know why, but I’ve got flashlights everywhere. I’ve even gone though my house, putting holders in closets and cabinets, so that there is always a flashlight in every room. That way, if the lights go out, nobody has to go stumbling around to find a flashlight.

But no flashlight lasts forever, not even the modern tactical lights. While I haven’t had any problems with high-grade tactical flashlights, I have had a number of med-grade and el-cheapo tactical lights go dead. And by dead, I mean really dead.

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So don’t think that having a flashlight is enough. Have several. Have several spares. That stockpile of batteries isn’t going to take care of you if you don’t have the lights with which to use them.

10. Building materials

This one may sound like an oddball to some, but I’m a firm believer in including at least some building supplies in my stockpile. That’s because the most likely disaster that any of us will face is a natural disaster. Those tend to damage homes, meaning that you need to be ready to make emergency repairs.

Now, when I’m saying emergency repairs, I’m not talking about fixing the trim. I’m talking about drying-in your home in the case that a tree branch comes through the roof. You can do that with a minimal of materials. It may not be pretty, but it will keep you dry.

11. Hardware

This one goes hand-in-hand with the building materials. If you’re going to fix things, you’re going to need hardware – screws, nails and such — to do it. There are also a lot of other things you can fix, even without the building materials, if you have the hardware. Put in a goodly stock, making sure you have lots of variety.

12. Hand tools

22 Survival Items (Other Than Food And Water) Your Stockpile Needs

Image source: Pixabay.com

In today’s society we’ve become dependent on power tools. Like everyone else, I’ve got a good collection of them in my workshop. But I also have hand tools for just about everything, so that even if I don’t have electrical power, I can keep on working.

It’s not unusual in a survival situation to find yourself having to build things to help you survive. Having the right tools, to go along with the building materials I just mentioned, makes it possible for you to make shelter, furniture and a host of other things.

13. Sandbags

There are few places in the country which are immune to flooding. Even areas which are extremely arid flood at times. Whether due to hurricanes, or flash floods upstream, we are all at risk of the possibility of flooding.

Of course, there are a lot of different ways of dealing with flooding, but the most basic is with sandbags. Stacked sandbags have stood the test of time, both for their convenience and their effectiveness.

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In a time where flooding is expected, many municipalities have centralized sand piles that are usable for filling your sandbags. But you can stock your own sand, too, simply by building the kids a nice big sandbox. Make sure it’s big, so you’ll have plenty of sand; that way you’ll be able to fill all your bags.

14. Repair tarts

Speaking of repairing, you need to look at all of your survival equipment from the viewpoint of making repairs on it. It’s great to have a pump for water; but if the pump breaks down, it’s no more valuable than a paperweight. You’ve got to be able to repair that pump, as well as your chainsaw, your roto-tiller and your solar power system.

In most cases, the parts that can go bad in these devices are usually fairly simple things, like seals. Such things are referred to as “maintenance parts,” simply because replacing them from time to time is considered part of normal maintenance. Manufacturers will often sell kits of these common parts, which is an ideal way to make sure you have what you need.

Of course, having the parts is only part of the battle. You’ll need the tools and knowledge, as well, in order to make those repairs. So, make sure you have the necessary information on how to work on the device, as well as any specialty tools necessary.

15. Clothing

Few people think of stockpiling clothing, mostly because we all have closets full of them. But the clothes we wear every day may not be appropriate for a survival situation. If you wear jeans and work shirts all the time, then you’re set, but if you work in an office, you aren’t going to have clothes that are rugged enough for the work you’ll need to be doing.

So you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of:

  • Jeans
  • Work shirts
  • Work jackets (for winter)
  • Work gloves
  • Wool socks
22 Survival Items (Other Than Food And Water) Your Stockpile Needs

Image source: Pixabay.com

The other big issue here is children. They have this bad habit of outgrowing their clothes, at times just about as fast as you can buy them. You need to have at least a couple of sizes of clothing larger than what they are wearing now in order to be sure that you have enough to keep them going until a good barter system can be put in place.

My wife used to buy our children’s clothes a couple of years ahead-of-time when they were small. Part of this was that she was a consummate garage-saler. So she’d buy what she could, knowing that the kids would need it later. We had boxes of clothes in the attic, all broken down into sizes by child.

A similar system would be ideal for your needs, if you have children. Instead of buying them the clothes they need now, work your way up to buying them the clothes they’ll need in two years. When you take the next size out of the attic, start filling a box with one size bigger than what you have. That way, you’ve always got clothing for them, for at least a couple of years.

16. Sewing supplies

Speaking of clothing; that stuff has a bad habit of tearing, especially when you’re doing hard physical work. So you’ll want to make sure you have a good stock of needles and thread on hand for making repairs. You’ll also want buttons, zippers and other such goodies, to keep your clothing in repair.

If the lady of the house is one who sews, make sure that you get a treadle sewing machine sometime. You can still find them at antique shops and (every now and then) even Goodwill stores. Between that and a stock of fabric, you’ll be in good shape for clothing.

17. Sturdy boots

Few people wear hiking boots on a daily basis. If we wear boots, they’re more the decorative kind. About the sturdiest shoe we ever wear is a pair of tennis shoes … not really all that sturdy. But in the case of survival, good sturdy boots are essential, especially ones that will offer you good ankle support. The last thing you will need is a broken ankle from twisting it on rough ground.

Don’t just depend on one pair of boots, though; they can wear out. Have a couple of pair, and alternate using them, so they will both break in well.

18. Water filter systems

Many of us have some sort of water filtering unit as our primary means of water purification. But once the cartridge or filter has purified the number of gallons of water it is intended for, it’s dead.

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There really isn’t an “ideal” number of filters to have. Just make sure that whatever you have, it’s plenty for your needs. Then add a couple more, just for good measure.

19. Personal hygiene supplies

Someone once said, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” I’m not so sure about that, but I am sure it is next to good health. While it is both possible and fairly easy to make soap, that requires a source of lye. If you don’t have that source, then you can’t make it. So, even something that simple needs to be considered in your supplies. But soap isn’t the only personal hygiene supply you can make. Take a look around the Internet and you’ll find a plethora of recipes for anything from deodorants to cosmetics.

20. Cleaning supplies

One of the best ways to keep bugs and rodents out of your home is to keep it clean. Both are attracted to food residue, especially sugar. This is a common means for the spread of disease, so you’ll need to watch out for it.

You’re best off buying commercial concentrates and stockpiling those. Not only do they take less space, but you’ll find that by buying them by the gallon, you’ll save money. Just make sure to have a good stock of spray bottles (which are cheap) to go with them.

There are many recipes on the Internet for making your own cleaning supplies, too — some from natural ingredients. Once again, you’ll need to make sure that you have access to those supplies, but some may actually be growing in your garden already.

21. Heirloom seeds

Most homesteaders and survivalists are already gardening. In a situation where you have to be able to depend on the produce you are growing, heirloom seeds are the only way to go.

As part of your gardening efforts, you should be trying to harvest the seeds from your garden. Those seeds will be the beginning of next year’s garden. In olden times, farmers commonly saved seeds from their harvest so that they would have it for next year. When you can’t run to the local store and buy seeds, that’s the only way you’ll get them.

But I want to mention one other thing here. That is, if a major disaster strikes, where you’ll have to live off of what you grow for the foreseeable future, then one of the first things you’re going to need to do is to expand your garden. That means you’ll need enough seeds on hand to do that. It will already be too late to buy more. So, how many seeds will you need to turn your entire backyard into a garden?

22. Ammunition

This one is kind of obvious, but I thought I’d mention it anyway. Many people out there talk about having 10,000 rounds of ammo. That’s great — if you’re planning on fighting a small war; but if your focus is hunting, then you may be stocking the wrong thing.

Think this one through. Yes, you need ammo for home defense. You also need ammo for hunting. You may even need ammo for training your children and other members of your family. So take the time to figure out how much ammo you’ll actually use for each of these needs — and then double it. That should see you through.

In addition to teaching your kids, think in terms of skills that you’ll need to learn. You’re probably working on those right now, and that’s great. But if you’re anything like me, there’s never enough time for all you want to learn. So, stock up on some good books to teach you those skills when the time comes. That way, you won’t be without them.

What would you add to this list? Share your tips in the section below:

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Knowing When It’s Time to Change

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Have you ever been on a path, moving along, digging yourself deeper into a rut … and all the time thinking you have made a wrong turn somewhere?

I have.

In fact, if I can be honest, that feeling has been increasing for a while. Some time ago, I wrote  a post called When Bad Becomes Normal, and the truth is that it’s time to take my own advice.

Last summer, my brother came out to visit. (Yes, there’s a point to this.) I warned him to call me before he headed up the mountain road, but the GPS on his car showed him a clear route to our cabin. However, there was misleading information in the GPS system and the “road” it showed had long ago degenerated into an ATV trail.

He told me later that he had a few misgivings, but kept bravely pushing ahead.

After all, he could see a clear road to my place.

Autumn.
Autumn.

When the path narrowed so badly that branches were scratching his car windows, he decided that no amount of pushing forward would get him where he was going. He backed out and … the GPS recalculated the route to take him safely to our place, although with a very badly scratched car.

Right now, I feel as though we’ve been pushing through on that ATV trail, ignoring the scratched paint job and certain that anytime now it’ll just open up and be a real road. We do that, don’t we? We go into a situation and think “Uh oh, this doesn’t feel quite right.” But we push aside the misgivings and bravely push forward. After all, we argue with ourselves, we can see the path clearly and maybe if we just push through a bit more, a bit harder, then the way will clear and it will be okay.

My brother would never have reached our cabin if he had kept on that road, and he would have damaged his car badly. There was no shame in backing up slowly and reassessing where he needed to be.

When we moved out to our mountain cabin, there were a number of things that I took for granted were true and would continue:

a) we had people who were interested in helping out regularly and would be building a cabin here and joining us,

b) the Mister would enjoy the lifestyle out here,

c) I would remain healthy …

d) the cabin was in good shape and could be renovated or expanded to fit our needs

e) we had a working well, acceptable sewer and other necessities

All important things, right? In the end, none of those things are true.

When it's time to make a change!

Solitude Is Good to a Point

Essentially, we’re alone out here. We travel five miles of bad dirt road to get to neighbours, and my nearest family is more than thirty miles away. In some ways that’s good.  I do enjoy the quiet and solitude, and I love stepping out on my front step at night to hear nothing except crickets. A fall evening out here, just before the sun sets, is the most peaceful place I’ve ever been. Honest – 90% of the time, it’s a wonderful thing.

However, if you’ve read the Little House on the Prairie books, you’ll know that Charles had difficulty doing minor things like oh, building a new house, when he only had Caroline’s help and at one point they almost died because there was no one nearby who knew they were ill. In fact, the Ingalls eventually moved into town to be closer to people.

There are many times that multiple people are needed, and the person who is looking after little children can’t reliably be one of them. (Small children, left unsupervised for even brief periods of time, have an unfortunate habit of severely injuring themselves and sometimes dying.)

Since moving here, I’ve often warned my readers not be lone wolves. Homesteading really needs to be done in a community. It can be a small community, but you do need a community of people who are supporting each other. My Mennonite friends, when they settle a new community, send between ten and twenty families with people of all ages, with different skill sets, too.

We don’t have that. We overestimated the willingness of people to come out this bad dirt road (and it didn’t help that the Roads department lied to us about the condition of the road before we bought it!). Those who spoke of joining us quickly had their romantic visions dashed and drifted out of our lives. It’s a difficult life out here.

My father grew up on a small Cape Breton farm. He installed my grandmother’s first indoor plumbing and electric stove when I was a baby, so he knows what it’s like to live this life.

Last week I said to him , “There are a lot of people who have rural retreats and figure that they’d come out to them and live in the event of some big disaster.” Dad was fixing the blades on the tiller, didn’t even look up and said,

They’d die in their first year. Only reason you’re alive is you could still access town.

Yea. So …. there’s that. Let’s call it lesson one. I’ll expand on that much more in a future post, probably called something like Why Your Bug Out Plan Will Kill You.

You Need Your Spouse On Board. For Real.

As for the Mister, he is a hard working man. Currently he works ten hour shifts at a gravel yard, with a one hour drive each way. He comes home filthy, top to bottom, and I can’t put my hands around his biceps at all. He enjoys being a firefighter and medical first responder, and he has learned to chop wood by hand, dig fences and put up buildings. Definitely a hard worker and I’ve very proud of everything he does for us.

The problem is that he really does not enjoy this ultra-rural life. It wasn’t his dream and he came along grudgingly.  Or, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that he didn’t have enough experience of rural living to make an informed decision. For three years, I’ve known that he is here because I’m here. Where I am, he will be … even if he hates every minute of it. (And yes, I recognize how lucky I am to have that kind of love.)

So it’s really rough on him to spend his very limited free time, especially since he’s tired, working on things here.angry couple I’ve known this from the beginning, but thought that time would make him enjoy it more.

Because … it was my dream and my vision. It’s time for me to stop being so selfish and recognize that. The children, too, need more access to friends, other people and, more importantly, a church family that supports and loves them. It’s not fair for me to make five people unhappy. It’s just not, especially when compromises are definitely possible.

There’s another future post. Lesson two. How to Rip Your Marriage Apart in Three Easy Steps. Or something like that.

(I will take a moment to note that we have not split up and have no plans to do so – so far I’ve had three people assume that we have !)

Health Matters

As for my health – this is a big one.

Shortly after we moved here, I was unexpectedly pregnant, giving us two little girls eighteen months apart. Two babies so close together is hard on anyone, but I’m in my mid-forties. Complications ensued, surgery followed, and I’m still dealing with the aftermath of all that. Unfortunately, surgery sometimes stirs up new problems as it fixes the old ones.

Sinus-triggered migraines returned, too, which provide their own set of problems and for quite a while we were concerned that they meant a new brain tumour. (I had a tumor – stage 2 with some glioma cells – removed by surgery in 2008). All while raising two little girls, a hyperactive boy and a boy with autism.

Recently I’ve been tentatively diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, as well. People have warned me that one can trigger others, so I need to nip this in the bud now before it gets worse.

Regular readers know that I also frequently hit with incredible fatigue. The reason for that, I think (and hope) is in the next point.

So we’ll call that Lesson three. If You Ain’t Got Your Health, You Ain’t Got Nuttin’

A Good House Is Important

This one is probably the most important, though. I could have managed the others, except this one makes that impossible. It aggravates all of the other problems.

This cabin was never meant to be lived in full time. The roof is sinking in spots. We’ve come to discover that the attic has no ventilation. There is green mold throughout the attic and black mold in the walls. One outer wall in particular is full of it. I can see it in the corners, both at floor level and roof level, and now it’s starting to appear in other rooms.

This past spring, our baby had a bout of pneumonia that came on terrifying fast and strong. Since then we have all started developing breathing and cough issues.

For the past several months, I’ve had a low-grade constant “chest cold” that won’t let up, too. About fifteen years ago, I lived in a house that had black mold in the basement. Back then I had the same issues of breathing problems, sore ears and chronic fatigue, which slowly let up after I moved away from there.

In addition, as we have dug into the plumbing and electrical and framing of the cabin to try and see how we could fix it up …. well, I often suspect that the people who put this place together were half-drunk. I mean, gee, who needs a building code, right?

It was not built well enough to renovate. I’ve now had three extremely competent contractors look at it and say it’s impossible to renovate this place without having it come down around our ears. At any rate, the time has come to admit that we cannot live in this cabin, not with the discovery of black mold throughout the walls. We would need to tear it down and build another, and it’s literally impossible to get a mortgage to build a house on an off-grid property, especially one as far out in the woods as we are.

Should that be Lesson four? Sow’s Ears Don’t Make Silk Purses, No Matter How Hard You Try

Water and Sewage

Readers who have followed for a while will be aware of my problems with our sewage system. While we have a very nice septic tank now, water remains a major issue so we can’t have a flush toilet. The composting toilet is … disgusting. I truly loathe this thing. It belongs in an outhouse, not inside a dwelling.

The dug well that we have has been barely sufficient most of the time. Recently it went completely dry and our best efforts (including using an air compressor to try to clean out the pipe) have been unsuccessful at getting it going again even though there is now water in it.  Plumbers won’t come all the way out here with their large equipment, so we’re limited in what we can do.

Not having hot water is something that can be managed. A lack of any running water, though, is unsanitary and an unbearable amount of hard work. (The mister rigged up a very awesome cistern for me right outside the front door and is keeping it filled with clean mountain spring water, but it’s still not nearly as easy as running water)

Lesson five …. The Bare Necessities of Life … Really Are Necessary

When Enough Is Enough

Most of these things are pretty minor or can be handled if they were isolated (except that toxic black mold), but added all together and I’ve had enough.

Before we moved here, a reader asked me “Do you ever stop?” and my mother used to tease me about all the things I do. I made cheese and cured my own meat. I did all the things. Now I feel like Alice.

My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.

I have been running as fast as I can now for over three years and I am beyond exhausted.

I’m worn out.

This property needs to be relegated to Rural Retreat – our bug out location, summer camp, blueberry field – and we need a full-time livable home that is closer to people and doctors. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop homesteading, nor does it mean that we’re moving back to a city. However, it does mean we’ll be on-grid for a while.

Stay tuned, because we have been house hunting. Watch for the next update!

The post Knowing When It’s Time to Change appeared first on Just Plain Living.

How To Make Copper, Just Like Our Ancestors Did

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How To Make Cooper, Just Like Our Ancestors Did

Image source: Pixabay.com

How much easier would it be to make electrical repairs if you didn’t have to make your way back into town or even cannibalize another piece of equipment in hopes that it will have the component you need?

Whether you’re homesteading or simply trying to make life easier as a survivalist, the knowledge of how to refine copper into wiring, small copper components and other parts with the resources around you is a crucial chunk of survival knowledge.

I know, I know. You’re probably thinking: “Wouldn’t I at least need some kind of expensive blower to get a fire hot enough to produce copper?”

The answer is a resounding “no.” That being said, let’s discuss which natural ores are available around you to produce this valuable metal.

The most common ore is chalcopyrite, and while finding this ore isn’t as easy as slipping outside for a stroll and picking it up along the forest floor like berries, it is still a relatively easy ore to find. Chalcopyrite can be found at the base of limestone-rich mountains and natural rocky outcroppings containing limestone. It is found by breaking open large limestone and extracting the metallic tetrahedron-shaped mass from the inside by simply hammering it out.

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The second most commonly found copper-bearing ore is chalcocite, found mainly in sedimentary rock quarries that are heavy in sedimentary rocks such as limestone, for example. See a correlation here? Chalcocite is widely commercially mined due to the ease at which it can be separated from the copper sulfide.

Now, for those of you desert buffs who prefer to homestead in more arid climates. The third most-common copper sulfide bearing ore is malachite. This ore is so prolific and was mined so much commercially that you have most likely seen malachite at rock and gem shops and had no idea you were looking at one of the most common sources of copper in history. While malachite doesn’t have nearly the amount of copper that chalcocite (79.8 percent when purified) has, it’s still one of the easiest ores from which to separate the copper.

Since your head may be spinning from the scientific end of this project, I suggest we move to the fun part: producing copper. As wonderful as this modern age is due to all the convenient equipment it brings — including flashlights, generators, solar panels and so much more — it has one flaw. Like everything else, eventually, your equipment will wear down. Parts break, and wire burns and shorts out.

Either way, one of the wonderful things about copper is that it doesn’t take some million dollar factory plant or factory to produce the copper products that we use each day.

You need three things to start: a bellow, wind pipes, and a furnace in order to smelt your copper ore.

After a suitable furnace spot has been found, your next step is to make a small piece of clay tubing to fit over the end of the wind pipes in order to keep the end of the wind pipes out of the direct heat.

You now get to play with some clay. You have to mold a small clay cup or “crucible” to contain your ore, and make a lid to match. It’s best to make sure all the parts match as best you can. Take your copper bearing ore and roast it for about an hour by sprinkling it over a small camp fire and putting wood on top of it. Don’t be worried about sifting out the copper from the wood ash, as the difference will be obvious.

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Crush your roasted ore with either a hammerstone or a hammer, and deposit it into your clay crucible after allowing the clay to dry in the sun for two to three days.

You will need a furnace to smelt the copper now. One of the fastest ways to build a furnace primitively is to carefully remove a nice 1 ½-foot piece of round turf or rooted ground in the spot you chose to smelt your ore and dig down another foot and a half into the dirt. This will create a natural furnace to keep your heat right where you want it. After building a small fire inside your hole, line the bottom and sides of the hole with charcoal. Set your clay crucible in the middle of it and put your lid on your crucible before covering it with more charcoal.

Simply replace the turf lid and insert your bellows windpipe under the lid of the turf. Begin working your bellows, and get comfortable for the next five hours! Apologies but this is the economic way of doing things. After five to six hours of  continuous pumping (see where a partner comes in handy?) you will see the flame start to show streaks of green. This shows that your copper is nearly complete. Have a friend continue working the bellows while you use long tongs to remove the turf lid and carefuly lift the clay lid from your crucible to check that the contents have melted into your liquid copper.

Once this has occurred then your next step is to carefully pour the liquid metal into either a mold you prepared to recast a broken copper electrical component, or into a long thin tube mould for later reheating and stretching into copper wire as you need it.

Keep whatever scraps of copper remain after your project. This copper can be easily reheated and used how you see fit.

What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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Homestead Cash: 23 Perennials & Biennials You Can Raise For Profit

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Homestead Cash: 23 Perennials & Biennials You Can Raise For Profit

Goji berry. Image source: aoma.edu

Homesteaders are always on the lookout for ways to be sustainable – and if possible, make some money. One great way to do this is to sell perennials and biennials.

Selling plants is one step up from just saving your own. In today’s world, we should feel a duty to help continue the succession of heirloom plants for our future generations.

First off, let’s look at the basics.

Perennials are plants that will regrow year after year and last for long periods of time – perhaps decades. Biennials are plants that take two years to complete their life cycle. You can plant them one year and collect seeds on the second year.

The Internet is my weapon of choice for selling or bartering plants. Recently, I discovered that goji berry plants are a hot item. If you have ever grown them, then you know they spread quickly. They also root and are pulled easily. I wait until the customer comes to my house, and I pull the bare root starts for them. Each start is $5, and I want them to be successful so I give extras for returning customers.

I also keep a wide selection of berry bushes and create new plants from cuttings—air layering or just covering branches with mulch to root. Most common is probably the strawberry plants. Each plant sends out shoots to grow new plants. You can either use small pots to start these shoots or let them root in the ground and pot them in the fall.

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Seeds from rare plants can bring in some additional income. Biennials take a second season to give seeds, and most people are not patient enough to wait. When your neighbors see what you offer, they will be more than happy to buy.

Here are some favorite perennials:

1. Garlic (usually grown as an annual)

2. Globe artichokes

3. Gogi berries

4. Kale (usually grown as an annual)

Homestead Cash: 23 Perennials & Biennials You Can Raise For Profit

Radicchio. Image source: Pixabay.com

5. Radicchio (usually grown as an annual)

6. Raspberries, blueberries, straberries and other berry bushes

7. Rhubarb

Here are some favorite biennials:

8. Beets

9. Brussel sprouts

10. Cabbage

11. Carrots

12. Cauliflower

13. Celery

14. Chard

15. Kale

16. Kohlrabi

17. Leek

18. Onion

19. Parsley

20. Parsnip

21. Rutabaga

22. Salsify

23. Turnip

With so many ways to propagate and perpetuate your seeds, you just have to find interest in what you offer. It doesn’t matter that you have a small plot of land or large one. Really, the only thing to do is to look up how to propagate the plants you have and follow the directions. By next spring, you will be able to put up a sign or list on local websites what you have. Facebook is usually a great option for educating friends on plants.

Homesteaders can benefit immensely from selling perennials and biennials – and their neighbors can, too!

What plants would you add to this list? Share your tips in the section below:

Every Year, Gardeners Make This Stupid Mistake — But You Don’t Have To. Read More Here.

Little-Noticed Septic Tank Problems You Shouldn’t Ignore

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Little-Noticed Septic Tank Problems You Shouldn’t Ignore

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

I happen to be fortunate that I live in a somewhat undeveloped bedroom community. I call it somewhat undeveloped because we don’t have all the things that you would normally expect a community to have. I have to drive six miles each way to the grocery store, about the same to the hardware store, and a mile if I need a gallon of milk. One other thing about this community: While we have running water, we have no sewage system.

Many of my neighbors are actually upset about this — complaining to our city government, because they haven’t invested however many millions of dollars it will cost to put in a sewage treatment plant and then another so many million dollars to tear up all of our streets and put in sewage lines. But to me, it’s a blessing in disguise.

Remember the Carnival Cruise Line ship that was adrift in the Gulf of Mexico for five days, after an engine room fire, in 2013? Passengers testified that not only did the running water give out, but that human waste was running down and seeping under the walls, due to the lack of running water.

During a disaster when the electricity is out and there is no running water, can you imagine how wonderful your neighborhood will smell when everyone’s sewage is backed up, due to a lack of running water? If there isn’t enough electrical power to run the pumps for our water, I can guarantee you that there won’t be enough power for the sewage pumps, either.

Without running water and in some cases pumps to pump the sewage, there is literally nowhere for it to go … at least, not for most people.

But for those of us who are still on old-fashioned septic systems, well, that’s another story. While my septic system still requires water, it doesn’t require anywhere near as much water as the city sewer system does. As long as I have enough water to flush my toilets, I won’t have to dig an outhouse or bag up human waste for disposal.

How a Septic System Works

But first, let me explain how a septic system works. Most home systems consist of two 500 gallon tanks, connected together and buried in the backyard. All the drain water from the house enters the first tank, where the solids settle out of it. The effluent (the liquid part, after the solids settle) flows through a short pipe mounted near the top of the tank and enters the second tank. When that tank reaches full, the water flows out of it to the leach field.

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The leach field is the secret of any septic system. The two tanks are there to collect solids and allow them to break down. Bacteria in the water attack the solids, doing their work in the recycling process. With two tanks, all the solids manage to settle, even the paper.

Little-Noticed Septic Tank Problems You Shouldn’t Ignore

Image source: Wikimedia

Four-inch pipes carry water from the tanks to the leach field. These pipes are perforated along the sides, allowing the water to flow out and into a gravel bed, where it can dissipate. Unfortunately, those holes also allow tree roots to find their way in.

The water entering the leach field is actually fairly clean, if you ignore the discoloration and the slight odor. Since the gravel bed is only a couple of feet below the surface of your yard, it can water the grass, trees and rose bushes. But most of it evaporates into the air, turning it into perfectly clean, pure water vapor, that falls to the ground once again as rain.

What Can Go Wrong?

The thing that most people don’t like about septic systems is that they have to be pumped out every two to three years. That’s to remove the solids which gather in the system. While the two tanks have a combined capacity of 1,000 gallons, you really don’t want more than about 300 gallons of solids, before the tanks are pumped out. That way, the water going into the leach field will be fairly clean.

Failure to pump out the system regularly could lead to solids going into the leach field and plugging up the pipes. My system actually had that happen. The builders had connected all the pipes from the house to the second tank, rather than the first, so the solids had a much easier time of finding their way to the leach field pipes than they should. Nevertheless, the system still lasted 32 years before the leach field had to be rebuilt.

It’s recommended to not use bleach with a septic tank system, because the same bleach that whitens your clothes and kills bacteria on surfaces, also will kill the bacteria in your septic tank, if you let it get in there.

The other big thing that can go wrong with a septic tank system is for tree roots to get into the leach field, the pipes and even the tanks themselves. I also had this happen to mine. Most contractors don’t use PVC cement when connecting drainage pipes together. This offers an opportunity for tree roots to find their way into the pipes. But that’s not the worst. If the drain pipes aren’t connected to the tank properly, then roots can get in there.

Roots in the pipes or in the entrance to the tanks will plug up your drains, eventually causing them to back up. The solution is to kill off the roots and clean out the lines with a power snake and a root cutter.

But tree roots are even more likely to get into the leach field than they are into the sewage pipes and septic tanks. While a few roots aren’t a problem, eventually they will reach a point where they can plug up the leach field pipes and prevent the water from actually reaching the gravel bed. When that happens, it’s time to replace the leach field.

Using Your Septic System as Part of Your Survival Plan

If your survival plan is to bug in, sheltering in place, you’ll want to make sure your septic system is ready for it. That means being sure to have the septic tank cleaned out on a regular schedule, perhaps even more often that necessary. That way, it will have capacity when you need it most.

The other thing you need to do is ensure that your leach field is in good shape. If your system is draining slowly, with the water not soaking into the ground as fast as it should, then it’s possible that you need to replace your leach field. The newer technology for leach fields is actually better, replacing the four-inch pipe with a two-foot wide leaching chamber. This has much more capacity, is cheaper to install, doesn’t require gravel and is more or less impervious to the problems caused by roots.

What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

Are You Prepared For A Downed Grid? Read More Here.

How Is Screen Time Impacting Our Society?

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August 8th 2016

Video courtesy of Delaney Ruston

SCREENAGERS probes into the vulnerable corners of family life, including the director’s own, and depicts messy struggles over social media, video games, academics and internet addiction. Thru surprising insights from authors and brain scientists solutions immerge on how we can empower kids to best navigate the digital world.

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The Easy, Cheap Way To Make A Cob Oven

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The Easy, Off-Grid Way To Make A Cob Oven

Image source: Myrtle Glen Farm

 

No homestead is truly complete without a cob oven. It is one of the iconic signs of rebellion and a step in the direction of freedom.

A cob oven is a baking chamber that reaches temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. It works like a battery, holding heat for more than 24 hours when constructed properly. With one load of wood you can cook pizza, bread, a turkey and even leave potatoes inside for baked potatoes – and do it all outside your home without warming the kitchen.

The cob oven goes back centuries, and it is not only efficient at cooking, but the taste cannot be replicated. For example, you might think it would dry out a turkey, but it rather traps the steam inside the cooker, making the food moist. Even better, it’s fairly inexpensive to construct.

Instructions vary on how to make them, but there are a few constants:

  • A base
  • Fire brick
  • Clay (earth clay, fire clay)
  • Sand
  • Straw
  • Water

A base can be made of just about anything secure. You could use the ground, but it would be difficult in which to work. A cinder block base is my option for cob ovens. They can be built inexpensively and to any size. I have seen bases made of wood, but you need to be careful to make it secure because there will be a few hundred pounds of cob on top.

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Fire brick is used as the floor of the cob oven. Here’s how to do that: After building the base, put a layer of sand and level it out. Lightly place a layer of firebrick on the sand so it’s as level as possible. This firebrick will be able to handle the high heat and insulate the floor of your cob oven.

To get the needed inner shape, just make a mold using moist sand like you do at the beach. Cover the dome-shaped mold of sand with strips of wet newspaper.

Story continues below video

For the dome, you’ll need the following ingredients: clay, sand, straw and water. This is the hardest part, because depending on the clay source it may have sand in it. Buying a bag of fireclay makes it much easier, guaranteeing that it lacks the sand. Either way, make a mixture of sand, clay and water that allows you to make a ball, turn it into a snake, and then back to a ball. (The ratio will vary, but many people use 1 part clay to 2 or 3 parts sand.) It should hold its shape well and be on the dryer side. The less sand you use, the more cracks you will have later on. Once you think you have a mixture figured out, put all the ingredients onto a tarp and start adding straw while mashing by foot.

Now, shape a door, using brick and cob. It can be any shape, but just keep in mind the size is dependent on what size food you plan to stick in it. Get creative and alter the sand dome as you need, to make it all work.

Make softball-size portions of cob to place at the base of the sand mold, and then work your way up. Use consistent sizes to control the thickness of the cob wall. There should be 2-3 layers of cob, making it 4-6 inches thick. The thicker it is, the longer the heat will hold.

Let your new cob oven dry for a day or two before pulling out the sand mold. Make a small fire to help speed up drying time. You can keep it protected by making a lean-to over your stove, protecting it from rain and snow.

The great part about this is that the cob can be crushed and reused if you ever want to make changes.

Have you ever made a cob oven? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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Raising and Butchering Rabbits Part 1

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When it becomes mandatory for us to raise our own food to feed our families, space can become an issue for many reasons. You may have thought that raising and butchering rabbits was out of the question if you live in urban areas, within city limits, or live in a small town but still live in an apartment or perhaps even rent a house.

Well we have good news! It is possible to accomplish feeding your family the old fashioned way verses the supper market way if you live in tight quarters. Raising rabbits might be an option for you. It is very cost effective, delicious and taste better than processed store meat. You avoid paying sales taxes, all the chemicals and antibiotics that are added and is overall healthier for you as well.

The New Survivalist provides us with a series of videos that walk us through how to get started and what you need.  In part one, (shown below) he shows wonderful tips and tricks to maximize space and keep the environment clean for the rabbits. He shares everything from what kind of rabbits to choose when starting, the supplies you will need, manure pros, how he sets up a simple watering system, nesting boxes, baby saver wire and many other things you will need to know.

In part two of his series he goes over his rabbits habitat, breeding them and birthing the bunnies according to “Story’s Guide to Raising..,” by Bob Bennet. He shows us how to prepare the nesting box and the bunnies that were just born in one.

We hope you enjoy this video and please feel free to leave some comments and advise in the comment section below!

Part ThreePart Four- Killing and skinning (warning, not for children or the weak)Part Five- Butchering 

Video By The New Survivalist
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Provided by American Preppers Network

Number of speakers: 1 (The New Survivalist)
Duration:  9 min  22 sec

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3 Lesser-Known, Super-Hardy Fruit Trees Every Homesteader Should Consider

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3 Lesser-Known, Super-Hardy Fruit Trees Every Homesteader Should Consider

Image source: JustFruitsAndExotics.com

One of the ultimate lessons I have picked up in life is that some of the things that I find annoying are in actuality extremely useful.

Take, for example, the neighborhood fruit and nut trees, which make a mess on my property and attract hordes of birds and insects.

It wasn’t until I was a little older that I realized that these annoying facets of my local neighborhood in fact have a high potential for becoming a viable food source. Many times these plants come in the form of trees and overgrown bushes.

Let’s look at three trees we normally don’t think of when we hear the word “fruit.”

1. Mulberry tree

The beauty of mulberry trees is that they produce tons of fruit without much care needed, and they don’t seem to be bothered by yearly weather conditions. As evidence of this, I have a pear tree in my yard that only sporadically produces fruit due to erratic springtime weather. But no matter how cold the winter or how hot the summer, the mulberry tree continues to produce.

3 Lesser-Known, Super-Hardy Fruit Trees Every Homesteader Should Consider

Image source: Pixabay.com

My neighbors have had a half dozen of these trees on their property for years, and I have gratefully been allowed to reap their benefits right along. The fruit can be a variety of colors (from white to deep purple), depending on the variety.

Given the large amount of fruit produced by these trees, traditional picking methods aren’t that cost effective when it comes to the amount of time needed.

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What I did to help speed up the process was to get a large tarp and place it under a targeted limb. Then I would ascend a ladder and grab the branch and give it a good shake. The ripe fruit then fell on the tarp, where I could safely harvest and process it.

2. Black walnut tree

If you live in an area with these fast-growing trees – they grow in cold and hot climates — then you are undoubtedly aware of their fruit. The large green husked fruits drop from the trees throughout the summer months and are just waiting for you to come by on your lawnmower. While the fruit may have an unpleasant odor, the walnuts you find within are just as good as any walnut you’d get from a grocery store.

Growing up in the northeast, I have always had these trees around me. Harvesting them isn’t much of a concern for any small time forager, as the trees consistently produce tons of fruit no matter the weather. The trouble is that you need to know how to access the nuts within.

3 Lesser-Known, Super-Hardy Fruit Trees Every Homesteader Should Consider

Image source: Pixabay.com

The one way I have seen that makes it easiest to get the green hulls off the fruit is to gather them all on a tarp and then let nature take its course. The green exterior will eventually turn brown and will soften in the sun after only a few days of exposure to the elements.

From here, a little experimentation is needed to figure out how to get to the nuts within. (Click here for more details.) Traditional hand-held units don’t work. People employ just about any method: from placing the walnuts in a bag and rolling over them with a car or pounding a bag full of nuts with a hammer.

A word of caution concerning black walnuts is that they can be detrimental to the surrounding environment. They are extremely fast growing and can choke out other local fauna within only a very short time.

3. Sand cherries

I opted to add these fruits several years ago as a viable addition to my growing homestead. The variety I decided on growing is exceedingly hardy to the harsh winter conditions in my region. Another bonus is that they only require a little upkeep to get them producing year after year.

Most varieties tend to grow as a bush, although some can grow as large as a small tree when they reach full maturity. The fruits are smaller and can be tarter than the traditional cherries you may be familiar with from the store. In some cases, people will opt to grow these bushes for an ornamental purpose, as the multitude of flowers found on each branch can be very visually appealing.

Produce Boiling Hot Water, Anywhere, Anytime With Absolutely No Power Whatsoever…

In my experience, several of these bushes will produce an abundance of fruit that can be used for a variety of uses. They do have pits in them, so you will need to remove them before consumption. Picking these fruits requires much the same effort as picking raspberries or other fruits found on bushes. All you really need is a bowl, clothes you aren’t overly concerned about, and a bit of time.

Conclusion

There are other varieties of fruit and nut trees around that may be considered to be a pest – but have gift-giving abilities. Persimmons and elderberries are two varieties that I have never had extensive experience with, although I know they have great potential as a food source in the right region.

Other viable options to consider that may already be in your area are crab apples and blackberries. Crab apples do not deserve the bad rap they have gotten over the years, as the fruit produced by these trees, while smaller than traditional apples, are still just as good as any other local variety. And while blackberries may seem like a no-brainer when it comes to harvesting potential, they can be exceedingly invasive and have thorns that may make them seem like a nuisance unless you are prepared.

The addition of any of these plants will be of benefit to your ecosystem, as long as the surrounding environment can support their addition. A lot of times you will find that nature has a way of over producing, and will give you more than you can adequately harvest at one time. This isn’t an issue, though, as any local food source you add for yourself will likewise be of benefit to the local wildlife who rely solely on what they can forage for survival.

No matter the choice you make, if you have the space and are interested in adding additional variety to your own homesteading potential, then any of these plants would be an ideal option.

What lesser-known fruit trees would you add to our list? Share your tips in the section below:  

If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do. Find Out More Here.

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The 20-Pound Plant Your Ancestors Grew To Feed Livestock

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The 20-Pound Plant Your Ancestors Grew To Feed Livestock

Image source: Flickr

 

Creating a homestead that is self-sufficient is challenging enough — and one of the most challenging aspects is trying to grow enough food to sustain both humans and livestock each year.

As difficult as that may seem, it is possible with careful planning and a bit of creativity. Choosing what you grow for your family and livestock will make a big impact, especially for those with fewer acres with which to work.

What to raise for livestock fodder may seem like an easy question to answer. We all know that grains and grasses are primary sources for most commercial feeds and many homesteaders, but there are many other choices available if you plan on growing your own feed. One such alternative crop is the mangel beet.

Mangel beets, known as forage beets or mangel-wurzel beets, were a staple crop on many homesteads until the advent of modern day farming equipment and the rise of big agriculture. Their use is recorded in writings dating back to the 1400s, and many modern homesteaders are reviving the popularity of this type of beet.

Mangel beets, also known as fodder beets, contain a wide variety of nutrients in both the root and the greens. The root of the red mammoth mangel beet and the giant yellow eckendorf beet will grow to an average of 15 to 20 pounds apiece, thus providing a sizable amount of feed — up to 50 tons per acre. The greens also can be used as feed, adding even more value to this beet as a crop for sustainable homesteads.

Need Non-GMO Seeds? Get The Best Deals Here!

The 20-Pound Plant Your Ancestors Grew To Feed Livestock

Image source: Pixabay.com

These beets prefer neutral soil and are capable of thriving in less-than-ideal soil conditions. Full sun, however, is a necessity. Sow seeds directly into the prepared soil one month before the final frost date for early harvest, 10 to 12 weeks before the fall frost date for a late harvest. Seeds should be placed two inches apart and seedlings must be thinned out early. Rows should be spaced no less than 12 inches apart. A moderate amount of rainfall or irrigation is necessary for optimal growth to facilitate this, and a light covering of mulch may be necessary to retain moisture in drier climates.

The greens can be harvested at any time. Plucking a few leaves from each plant will not stress the root and will allow you or your livestock to enjoy nutrient-rich greens for many weeks. Carefully monitored and controlled grazing may be acceptable in the last few weeks before harvest.

The roots can be harvested anywhere from 70 to 100 days after planting. It is important to protect the roots from drying out. In warmer climates, the beets may be stored in the field and dug up as needed. In colder climates, store mangel beets in a root cellar or other cool, dry area. Farmers, in days gone by, would dig a pit to bury the beets in, near their livestock. Lining the pit with straw, the farmers would add alternate layers of beets and straw, finally covering the pit with a wood lid to limit the loss of fodder to rot or mold. In Europe, it was common to create what is known as a clamp, a protected pile of mangel-wurzel beets above ground.

Traditionally, mangel beets are not used as livestock fodder until January. During the time between harvest and January, certain components begin to break down in the root, making them easier to digest and less likely to cause digestive issues in your livestock.

To supplement your poultry feed and provide a pecking distraction, simply hang a beetroot in the coop. Greens can be fed to the poultry, as well. For other livestock, including cattle, horses, pigs and goats, beets are best sliced or cut into chunks before adding them in the daily ration of feed.

Have you ever grown mangel beets? Share your advice on them in the section below:

Bust Inflation With A Low-Cost, High-Production Garden. Read More Here.

3 Vegetable Gardening Tips You Need to Know

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There is nothing quite like biting into a freshly picked tomato while it is still warm from the summer sun. Or creating a salad from just-picked greens. When you grow your own vegetable garden, you can experience this little piece of heaven all season long. Extend the season with some simple techniques and you can enjoy it even longer.

3 vegetable gardening tips you need to know

However, growing an abundant supply of fresh vegetables year after year takes some practice. For most people, becoming a consistently successful vegetable gardener comes after years of hands-on experience. However, you can lessen your own learning curve by adopting some tried-and-true vegetable gardening tips from the pros.

Here are 3 Vegetable Gardening Tips You Need to Know

Tip #1: Amend Your Soil

Few gardeners are blessed with an abundant supply of beautiful, rich topsoil. Depending on where you live, you may find yourself struggling with heavy clay, rocky, sandy or other less-than-ideal soil conditions.

Each of these soil types presents different challenges ranging from retaining too much water (or not enough) to being devoid of the essential nutrients plants need to survive and thrive. For example, if you have heavy clay soil and you just dig a hole in the ground and drop a plant into it, chances are good that plant won’t make it. The heavy clay around your plant will act like a bathtub whenever it rains, which means your plant will be forced to sit in a pool of water with nowhere to drain.

Here in the Canadian Maritimes, we get rain, rain, rain and where you find a damp, rainy climate you will almost always find acidic soil. Amending our soil with lime every year or two is not really an option – unless we raise the pH, we can grow nothing except blueberries. (Blueberries are wonderful, but you certainly can’t live on them!)

So your first step will be to identify the type of soil you have so you can take the appropriate steps to amend it. Once you know what you are dealing with, you’ll be able to determine which specific amendments are needed to amend your type of soil.

While mulch isn’t necessarily a soil amendment, I urge you to make lavish use of it. There are many options, depending on what you have available. I mulch everything very heavily with old barn hay, which holds in the moisture, provides habitat for predatory insects and prevents soil erosion. My children know that “hay around a plant helps it but hay on top of a plant kills it” so that they will give the vegetables a cozy bed but smother the weeds.

Tip #2: Grow UP

Your plants, not you personally! Whenever possible, make sure you take advantage of vertical space in your garden by utilizing fences, trellises, and other structures to keep your plants off the ground.

There are many advantages to growing your vegetables vertically. For starters, you can grow more food in a smaller area, which is great for urban gardens or those with limited growing space. Plus, growing vegetables on structural supports makes harvesting and weeding around your plants a lot easier. This is especially true for older individuals or those with other physical restrictions because less bending and stretching is required to perform these tasks.

Growing vertically benefits your vegetable plants, too.  Raising the plants off the ground leads to better air circulation around them, which is associated with fewer fungal infections and pest infestations. Isn’t it great when something is better for us and it’s better for the plants, too?

Tip #3: Give Your Plants Some Friends

Companion planting is a smart way to increase the yield of your vegetable garden.  Learning which plants work well together is an important step towards maximizing the efficiency of your vegetable garden.

Some plants are particularly beneficial to one another, so it makes sense to group these plants together in your garden. These beneficial plant combinations may add needed nutrients to the soil, deter unwanted pests or attract beneficial insects into your garden.

You may have heard how Native Americans planted “the three sisters” – maize (corn), beans and squash – together because each plant benefitted the others in some way.  For example, the corn stalks provided structure for the beans to grow upon, while the squash provided an effective weed barrier as it spread out along the ground. This is one example of  companion planting, but there are so many more. I like to plant lettuce around the base of tomato plants – the lettuce provides a living mulch while the tomato shades the baby lettuce. After I remove the lettuce, I add hay.

Vegetable gardening is an acquired skill that evolves over time and I’ll admit that I am always learning. I figure I will be for years to come. However, applying these 3 must-know vegetable gardening tips will lessen your learning curve significantly.

The post 3 Vegetable Gardening Tips You Need to Know appeared first on Just Plain Living.

Stockpiling Basics: 3 Areas You Better Not Overlook

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Stockpiling Basics: 3 Areas You Better Not Overlook

Image source: Flickr

In uncertain times, having a plan allows us to have a sense of security knowing essential details are covered. Whether the plan is designed to include the bare bones necessary for immediate survival or is intended to span years, every plan should include some measure of stockpiling.

Stockpiling, or accumulating a large quantity of goods, may often be viewed by onlookers as paranoia, especially in light of reality shows that highlight extreme shopping, but stockpiling is simply a wise practice for anyone when it is included as a part of life.

Homesteaders, of course, know that each year brings new challenges, with disease, drought and other disasters having a major impact on the homestead’s production. Having a stockpile to rely on in tight times, or when faced with difficult circumstances, is essential.

We Found The World’s Healthiest Survival Food — And It Stores For YEARS and YEARS!

New homesteaders naturally will start accumulating foods and other goods that are routinely needed on the property. For homesteaders, maintaining a stockpile of goods becomes part of everyday life.

With any course of action, having a plan will only increase its effectiveness, and this can be as simple as adding a few items each week to your local purchases.

The Basics

Food stockpileThere are at least three key areas to consider when starting a stockpile for your homestead.

1. Space and location

What areas can be used for storage: both long and short term? Cool, dry rooms are traditionally thought of as the best areas because they reduce loss due to moisture, but other areas should not be overlooked. It depends what you’re stockpiling. Choose carefully for your intended location. If the electricity fails during heavy rains, could your stockpile be ruined in a flooded basement?

2. Containers and shelves

What about shelving, totes, boxes and other storage containers? But consider carefully the materials, especially plastics which have the potential to leach harmful chemicals into the stored goods. All shelving should allow the stock to be rotated easily to reduce waste.

3. Stockpile but don’t waste

Estimate the needs of those on the homestead. Only store what can be reasonably used before foodstuffs and medications expire, or other materials deteriorate. This may be as simple as marking the date you open a new bottle or jar, and recording the date it is completely used up for an entire month in a small notebook. Then calculate to find the amount used each year.

Only stockpile foods that are of good quality, or that are known to work well for the household. Many have stocked up on high-quality foods that were wasted, because no one ate them.

Perhaps the easiest way to start a stockpile is to set aside a specific amount in the household budget each month to put toward stockpile goods. With as little as $5 a week or even a month, a small accumulation will begin. This amount should be used to buy items that are not produced on the homestead. For those who want a large supply quickly, a fair amount of cash and a well-written plan can make it happen.

What stockpiling advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

Discover The Secret To Saving Thousands At The Grocery Store. Read More Here.

Unplug Appliances and Save Money

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Have you ever heard that you can unplug appliances and save a whole lot on your energy bill? But really, how much could you possibly save by unplugging everything when you’re done using it?

If it’s not in use can it really be using that much electricity? Well, you’d be surprised at just how much electricity you can save simply by unplugging those unused appliances.

What Draws the Most Electricity

Your TV and coffee maker which are powered down individually might not draw that much energy, but all of these electrical appliances together are still drawing power and can add up to 10% to your electric bill each month. And in general the biggest drains on your power even when they are powered down is any device with a remote control.

Energy.
Save money by unplugging appliances when they’re not in use

Also anything with an external power supply, a charger (for your phone or gaming device), anything with a continuous display (an alarm clock, microwave, or oven with a digital clock), laptop computers, and cable boxes (especially with an integrated DVR) are all huge offenders. They use an average of 9 watts to 44 watts of electricity even when powered down.

Older appliances will use less power when not in use because they aren’t doing anything.

A washing machine without a digital display has nothing to power when not in use. But of course the older appliances then have the unfortunate fate of not being energy efficient when they are in use.

The drawing of power when appliances are not in use is something that is beginning to become a thing of the past.

Many newer TVs and electronics are drawing less energy when turned off because of energy star guidelines.

How to Know Which Appliances to Unplug

Obviously you can’t unplug everything when it’s not in use. Your alarm clock is probably something you need to keep plugged in at all times unless you switch to a manual alarm clock. Your cable box with the DVR in it is set to record things at certain times, so unplugging it might cause you to miss your scheduled recordings.

Your refrigerator and programmable coffeemaker are obviously appliances that are completely useless should you unplug when they aren’t in use – in particular your refrigerator. For these appliances the best way to save on your energy cost is to make sure you check the energy star ratings. You will need to check for the standby ratings on the item before you purchase it.

Of course there is one other option – get rid of your refrigerator. Or at least downsize to a much smaller one. Yes, it’s possible.

But the TV and DVD player and your computer are all items which can be unplugged when not in use. Probably the easiest way to accomplish unplugging these items is to have them attached to a power strip which has an on/off switch. Flip the switch when you’re done using the items. And with a quick flip of the switch you can power everything back up.

We are off-grid and count every watt of power. Because of this, we turn off everything at night. Yes, quite literally, we turn off all the power for the house! Obviously, we don’t have any appliances that need to draw energy continuously.

One thing we have learned, if you are turning off your entire computer system, is to turn them back on in a certain order. First, turn your modem back on. Then, once it has booted up completely, turn your router back on. Finally, turn on your computer.

You likely aren’t going to see huge savings, but you should see a 5-10% decrease in your electric bill if you begin turning off all appliances and devices when they are not in active use. And just think about what would happen if all of your neighbors cut back and unplugged from the wall. The effect it would have on the environment as a whole would truly be impressive.

And with something so simple, who wouldn’t want to save even $5 a month on their electric bill?

Budgeting – and following a budget – seems like it should be easy. Unfortunately, too many of us struggle with it. Like the tiny bits of electricity that add up on our monthly bills, the money seems to trickle away, untracked and unaccounted for.

The skills can be easily mastered, but most people have not been taught the basics of personal finance. Make no mistake – frugality and personal finance is something that can and should be taught!

Enroll in Common Cents and join me for a 16 week course that will take you from budgeting through mortgages and identity theft. Each week includes videos, slides, printable affirmations and of course a detailed lesson. A private Facebook group provides ongoing support and training for all students.

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The post Unplug Appliances and Save Money appeared first on Just Plain Living.

Off-Grid Medicine: 4 Things Every Homesteader Should Grow

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Off-Grid Medicine: 4 Things Every Homesteader Should Grow

Turmeric powder. Image source: Pixabay.com

 

When I think about medical issues out on the homestead or any other off-grid lifestyle, my thoughts naturally drift toward a well-stocked first-aid kit and maybe a pair of crutches. I am immensely careless where and how I am walking and am prone to deeply entertaining — yet humiliating — falls.

But enough about me.

What is often overlooked are the minor (and not so minor) discomforts of daily life. Things like sore backs, pounding headaches, cramps and rashes. And let’s be honest with ourselves for just a bit; life on the homestead is not always a walk in the park.

Burns, sprains and poison ivy in less-than-ideal places are all things we face. If we are preparing for long-term sustainability or have made the off-grid choice a permanent lifestyle, it is wise to consider how we will handle all manner of medical care.

After all, the local pharmacy may be hours of travel away.

Learn How To Make Powerful Herbal Medicines, Right in Your Kitchen!

It is with this in mind that I have compiled the following four remedies that can easily be sustained on the typical homestead. In no way is this a complete list, but I feel that it addresses some of the most common maladies. If you don’t already grow them, then consider including them in your upcoming garden plans.

1. Turmeric

Latin name: Curcumae longae

What it’s good for: anti-inflammatory. Taken orally, turmeric has shown great potential for alleviating joint pain and has shown efficacy in slowing the progression of rheumatoid arthritis in rats. When transformed into an essential oil, it is effective against athlete’s foot and other fungal infections.

Where it grows: It is a tropical plant and thrives in warm, humid climates but will grow in any part of the world that has temperate summers. It will die in the winter if not brought inside.

What part to use: The root is dried and made into a powder. This is a component in the favorite spice of India — curry. Also, it can be used fresh if kept refrigerated or distilled into an essential oil for topical purposes.

2. Feverfew

Latin name: Tanacetum parthenium

What it’s good for: Headaches. Particularly migraines. It has also been traditionally used for reducing fever and aiding with digestive problems. So if you happen to be unfortunate enough to be experiencing a sour stomach and a migraine at the same time, this is your herb.

Where it grows: Native to Eurasia, it is now found across the globe, including North America and Europe. Given full exposure to the sun, it will grow to near weed-like status outside its native regions.

What part to use: The leaf, preferably dried and powdered. Although a common practice, chewing the leaves can lead to ulcerations in the mouth.

Note: May interact with blood thinners. This herb should not be used by women who are pregnant.

3. Aloe Vera

Off-Grid Medicine: 4 Things Every Homesteader Should Grow

Image source: Pixabay.com

Latin name: Aloe Vera

What it’s good for: All manner of skin irritations and rashes. Although not in itself a cure, the gel that can be harvested from the inner part of the plant’s “leaves” or stalks is a natural and effective soothing agent.

Where it grows: The Arabian Peninsula and North Africa, although it can be grown indoors anywhere – and outside in many climates.

What part to use: The gel, which is found inside its stalks. Apply liberally to affected areas accordingly.

4. Honey (locally sourced)

What it’s good for: Cold and flu symptoms and immune system. Honey, particularly when it is local and raw, is a Swiss Army knife of medicinal remedies and preventatives. Honey possesses a wealth of antioxidants and has demonstrated antibacterial and antiviral properties. When it has come from local hives, it can actually assist in relieving allergies. This is due to the honey containing small amounts of local pollen. Sort of like a tasty, sweet allergy shot. It also has been the go-to remedy for sore throats and coughs for centuries. The fact that it is delicious just adds to its appeal.

Where it is harvested: Anywhere in the world where honeybees thrive.

What part to use: The liquid honey as well as the honeycomb are wonderful additions to your pantry. Remember those antibacterial properties we talked about previously? Well, those same medicinal qualities happen to make for a very long shelf life. The honey will likely crystalize over time, but the quality of it is not compromised.  To return it to its original liquid form, simply place the jar in a warm water bath.

Final Thought

Remember that with herbal remedies, more is not always better and in some cases can even be dangerous. There are a wealth of easily cultivated and sustainable remedies that are available to the average homesteader. Take the opportunity to become educated on the various plants and their uses, and you will be on your way to a more healthy and sustainable medicine cabinet.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or cure any particular health condition. Please consult with a qualified health professional to determine which treatments are right for you and any individual health condition(s) that you may have.

What would you add to this list? Share your tips in the section below:

If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do. Find Out More Here.

4 Reasons Not to Weed the Garden

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It’s the time of year when weeds really get into full swing. There’s no fool-proof way to stop all the weeds from getting into your garden — but do you really want to? Too many weeds are friends to no one, but some weeds actually do some good. They can help in a lot of different ways, so let’s look at some reasons you might want to leave a few weeds in your garden.

Is it really necessary to weed your garden? What can you do instead? A guest post.
Bobbi Peterson loves writing and regularly posts on her blog Living Life Green. She’s also a freelance writer, green living advocate and environmentalist. You can find more from Bobbi on Twitter.

They Can Help Aerate the Soil

There are a lot of weeds that are considered “taproots,” which means their roots go far down into the soil. Dandelions are probably the most well-known of this variety, but any taproot will be hard to pull.

The depths of these roots are good for two reasons. First, they don’t compete with nutrients for plants that have shallow roots. Second, the deep taproot can help to draw up nutrients from deeper in the soil for other plants to use, which is the whole point of aerating your garden. Why pull up plants that are doing the hard work for you?

You’ll Attract Pollinators

Bees, butterflies, moths, certain kinds of wasps and beetles are all great pollinators. The one thing they all need in order to be pollinators is, of course, a variety of flowers.

Vegetable gardens are not great at offering a wide variety. They’ll have some, of course — tomatoes, melons and maybe eggplant will all flower. But that’s not a wide variety, and it’s not much for wild competition. A garden that attracts pollinators needs a lot of color, and if you can’t get it from your plants, you can certainly get it from your weeds. Clover, nettles, dandelion and wild violet are all beautiful and will bring the bugs in.

They’re Great for Snacking

Some of the traditional weeds people tend to trash are actually edible plants. Dandelion flowers are delicious right out of the ground, and the leaves can be used in salad. Wild violets can also be eaten plain, but they’re delicious when coated in sugar and used as decoration on cakes and pastries. You can also collect a large number of them to make absolutely stunning violet syrup.

You can also eat the leaves of chickweed in salad, and wild fennel can replace anise in your cooking for a cheaper alternative. Blackberries and wine raspberries are both easy to find, and a lot of fun to pick.

Nettles, on the other hand, are very edible but not as much fun to pick. Make sure to wear gloves if you’re going after them, because they will sting. However, dunk the plant in boiling water for 30-45 seconds, and all the sting will go out of them. You can use them in teas and soups for a great, hearty affect.

Both dandelions and violets are easily recognizable. However, if you’re ever unsure of what a plant is, play it safe and don’t try to eat it. Some plants are poisonous, and you don’t want to make yourself sick.

Some Weeds Are OK

It’s understandable you don’t want weeds everywhere. They have a tendency to look messy, and messy is not relaxing. Plus, if you’re working in a community garden, there are probably some rules that you have to keep your weeds under control so they don’t spread.

The key is to keep your weed population within reason, not to spend hours pulling every tiny weed that pops up. If you’re looking for an easier way to get rid of them, think outside the box. Air compressors can be used to remove weeds while simultaneously fertilizing the soil, by basically beating the weeds into nothing with something nutritious for the soil.

If you’ve been spending your summer worried about weeds, worry no more. Welcome a few travelers into your yard, and start enjoying some of the benefits they have to offer.

The post 4 Reasons Not to Weed the Garden appeared first on Just Plain Living.

Should You Be Weeding Your Garden?

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It’s the time of year when weeds really get into full swing. There’s no fool-proof way to stop all the weeds from getting into your garden — but do you really want to? Too many weeds are friends to no one, but some weeds actually do some good. They can help in a lot of different ways, so let’s look at some reasons you might want to leave a few weeds in your garden.

Is it really necessary to weed your garden? What can you do instead? A guest post.

 
Bobbi Peterson loves writing and regularly posts on her blog Living Life Green. She’s also a freelance writer, green living advocate and environmentalist. You can find more from Bobbi on Twitter.
 

They Can Help Aerate the Soil

There are a lot of weeds that are considered “taproots,” which means their roots go far down into the soil. Dandelions are probably the most well-known of this variety, but any taproot will be hard to pull.

The depths of these roots are good for two reasons. First, they don’t compete with nutrients for plants that have shallow roots. Second, the deep taproot can help to draw up nutrients from deeper in the soil for other plants to use, which is the whole point of aerating your garden. Why pull up plants that are doing the hard work for you?

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You’ll Attract Pollinators

Bees, butterflies, moths, certain kinds of wasps and beetles are all great pollinators. The one thing they all need in order to be pollinators is, of course, a variety of flowers.

Vegetable gardens are not great at offering a wide variety. They’ll have some, of course — tomatoes, melons and maybe eggplant will all flower. But that’s not a wide variety, and it’s not much for wild competition. A garden that attracts pollinators needs a lot of color, and if you can’t get it from your plants, you can certainly get it from your weeds. Clover, nettles, dandelion and wild violet are all beautiful and will bring the bugs in.

They’re Great for Snacking

Some of the traditional weeds people tend to trash are actually edible plants. Dandelion flowers are delicious right out of the ground, and the leaves can be used in salad. Wild violets can also be eaten plain, but they’re delicious when coated in sugar and used as decoration on cakes and pastries. You can also collect a large number of them to make absolutely stunning violet syrup.

You can also eat the leaves of chickweed in salad, and wild fennel can replace anise in your cooking for a cheaper alternative. Blackberries and wine raspberries are both easy to find, and a lot of fun to pick.

Nettles, on the other hand, are very edible but not as much fun to pick. Make sure to wear gloves if you’re going after them, because they will sting. However, dunk the plant in boiling water for 30-45 seconds, and all the sting will go out of them. You can use them in teas and soups for a great, hearty affect.

Both dandelions and violets are easily recognizable. However, if you’re ever unsure of what a plant is, play it safe and don’t try to eat it. Some plants are poisonous, and you don’t want to make yourself sick.

Is weeding really necessary in your garden?

Some Weeds Are OK

It’s understandable you don’t want weeds everywhere. They have a tendency to look messy, and messy is not relaxing. Plus, if you’re working in a community garden, there are probably some rules that you have to keep your weeds under control so they don’t spread.

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The key is to keep your weed population within reason, not to spend hours pulling every tiny weed that pops up. If you’re looking for an easier way to get rid of them, think outside the box. Air compressors can be used to remove weeds while simultaneously fertilizing the soil, by basically beating the weeds into nothing with something nutritious for the soil.

If you’ve been spending your summer worried about weeds, worry no more. Welcome a few travelers into your yard, and start enjoying some of the benefits they have to offer.

The Incredible Tree That Controls Flooding, Cleans Soil, And Cures Headaches, Too

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The Incredible Tree That Controls Flooding, Cleans Soil, And Cures Headaches, Too

Image source: Pixabay.com

Eking out the greatest potential from your homestead may seem like quite a challenge. Acreage is at a premium, so how can it best be utilized to produce what is needed to make a homestead more self-sufficient or even produce additional income to reinvest in the land? These are common questions, with no definite right or wrong answers. There are many good ideas to try and implement — one of which is adding a stand of willows on your land.

Have you considered growing willows? The trees and shrubs that make up the Salix family are varied, including the ornamental varieties popular in modern landscaping and the supple basket willows used in ages past for creating baskets of all kinds, furniture and fences. Willows, when properly maintained, can be a wonderful addition, such as to the edge of streams and low-lying areas that retain a lot of moisture on the homestead. They can provide fuel and medicine, act as a living fence, be harvested for wickerwork or even be harvested and sold as a cash crop for biofuel energy plants.

The Incredible Tree That Controls Flooding, Cleans Soil, And Cures Headaches, Too

Image source: Pixabay.com

Willows are easy to start from cuttings, which means they are often free for the taking. Plant cuttings after the danger of frost 10 to 12 inches deep, allowing one or two sets of buds to remain above ground and ensure it remains well watered. Keeping new stands weed-free and lightly mulched will ensure cuttings become established. Willow root systems are large, so it is necessary to avoid planting them close to building foundations, septic systems and other underground structures. Coppicing, or cutting the trees off at ground level once each year, will help to control the size of the root system.

Willow: Fast, All-Natural Pain Relief With No Nasty Side Effects!

There are several ecological reasons for including a stand of willows on your homestead. Willows are effective carbon filters, absorbing large amounts of carbon dioxide and filtering out other air pollutants. For urban homesteaders, a barrier of willows can effectively reduce pollution and also diminish the noise pollution from nearby roadways. The root systems of these trees are also valuable, as they will clean multiple types of toxins from the surrounding soil in addition to adding valuable nutrients. They will filter pollutants out of nearby water sources, such as streams, rivers and ponds. This same root system also will reduce erosion along these waterways and stabilize steep hillsides.

Willows are great additions to hedgerows or living fences. When included as part of a living fence around an orchard, willows that are not coppiced will attract bees, and they bloom earlier than most fruiting trees. Beekeepers will benefit from including some willows in the hedges around the homestead.

Willows can be weaved into a strong barrier along waterways to control flooding. These woven barriers can be used to enclose gardens as well, providing an extra layer of protection from marauders.

The Incredible Tree That Controls Flooding, Cleans Soil, And Cures Headaches, Too

Image source: Pixabay.com

If you are interested in including medicinal plants on your homestead, do not forget to include willow. Willow bark tea is nature’s aspirin for headaches and pain, with no adverse side effects. The inner bark of the willow tree, best harvested when the sap is running, can be used to make tinctures and teas that are used to treat inflammation, in addition to being valuable as a mild pain reliever and for reducing fevers.

Of course, willows can be harvested to make many household items. Known as wickerwork, willows can be woven to create baskets, furniture and even fences. It may take a bit of practice, but those with patience to develop their weaving skills may be able to make a decent profit from their creations, or at the very least save some money building their own instead of buying new.

Willows also are worth taking a look at with the current push toward renewable resources to burn for fuel. In fact, many homesteaders are raising willows as a cash crop. Using willows for energy production is ecologically sound, as they are renewable and burn clean, releasing far less pollutants into the atmosphere than other types of fuel. A typical stand of willows can be harvested as a biofuel seven or eight times before needing to be replanted.

Have you ever grown or used willows? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below: 

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