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

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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

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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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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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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

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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:

Are You Prepared For A Downed Grid? Read More Here.

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)

Image source: YouTube screen grab.

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)

Image source: PublicDomanPictures

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.

Harness The Power Of Nature’s Most Remarkable Healer: Vinegar

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

Image source: Pixabay.com

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

Image source: Pixabay.com

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.

Discover More Than 1,100 Homesteading Tips And Tricks!

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

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

Preparing The Wood Stove For Winter: 7 Critical Tasks

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Preparing The Wood Stove For Winter: 7 Critical Tasks

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

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.

Discover More Than 1,100 Homesteading Tips And Tricks!

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

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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.

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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:

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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!

The post Homesteading and balancing all that weight! appeared first on Prepper Broadcasting |Network.

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.

Discover More Than 1,100 Homesteading Tips And Tricks!

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. […]

The post Keeping a Pantry: 8 Reasons That Will Convince You appeared first on Just Plain Living.

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.

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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:

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

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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!

The post Life In The Remote Wilderness! appeared first on Prepper Broadcasting |Network.

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

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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

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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.

Just 30 Grams Of This Survival Superfood Provides More Nutrition Than An Entire Meal!

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

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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.

This Cool-To-The-Touch Lantern Provides 100,000 Hours Of Emergency Backup Lighting

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

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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

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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:

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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.

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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 

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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.

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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:  

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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.

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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:

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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.

Enroll today in Common Cents!

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: 

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

hydrogen peroxide report

7 Reasons Goats Are Almost Always A Better Choice Than Cows

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7 Reasons Goats Are Almost Always A Better Choice Than Cows

Image source: Pinterest

When people think of dairy, they automatically think of cows. Sure, dairy cows are a nice luxury and will keep any family well-supplied with milk.

However, many people simply cannot have a cow on their land. There is another option for your dairy needs: goats. Goats are an excellent choice for supplying you with the milk you need to keep your family healthy and fed. In fact, goat milk is better for you than cow’s milk. It has lower lactose levels, which means even those who are lactose intolerant likely will be able to drink and eat cheese made with goat’s milk.

Still not convinced? Check out these seven reasons goats are a better choice than cows for your homestead.

1. Goats are a fraction of the cost. A doeling will cost you anywhere from $50 to $200, depending on the breed and whether or not she is papered. A dairy cow will cost you anywhere from $700 to $3000. You can buy females in milk for around $200 to $400.

2. Goats are exceptionally cheaper. If you have land, your goats can free-range quite a bit with some minor supplements. A 50-pound bag of “goat chow” will run you around $15, and a bale of hay about $20.

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

That will last a single goat a month or more. A dairy cow will run you around $200 a month to feed the basics.

3. Goats require a fraction of the space. You can own a goat or several goats on a fairly small parcel of land and still be in good shape. Some people will have two goats on less than a half acre, which seems to work. A cow will need her own acre to stay healthy and fed. This can be problematic if you have a small area and need to raise other livestock and grow a large garden. The more pasture you have, the better.

7 Reasons Goats Are Almost Always A Better Choice Than Cows

Image source: Pixabay.com

4. Goats are easy. It is not hard at all to manage their diet, considering they can eat just about anything and be OK. A goat that eats too much, though, can get bloat. Bloat, when caught early enough, is easy to cure without worrying about hiring a vet. A little baking soda is generally enough to solve the problem. Dairy cows are prone to a variety of illnesses, as well, but the fix tends to be very expensive and often requires an experienced vet.

5. Goats tend to be a lot like dogs. They become pets. They will learn your voice, and most of them will come when you call. They are very friendly and you will soon discover they are playful, loving creatures. Watching young kids (baby goats) run and play is entertaining. You won’t see cows jumping, running and acting silly.

6. Breeding is a lot easier with goats. You also will be rewarded with anywhere from one to three kids on average. A cow will usually only have one calf at a time. A cow’s gestational period is about 283 days versus a goat’s gestational period of 150 days. This means you are able to stay “in milk” for most of the year when you have a goat.

7. Goats are smaller. Their size is less intimidating than that of a 1,200-pound cow. For some, it can be a little scary trying to milk a cow that isn’t in the mood. With a goat, the process isn’t nearly as terrifying, and you will be able to have better control of a cranky goat than you would with an irritated cow. There is less fear of being hurt or trampled by a goat.

Do you agree? Share your thoughts 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.

Understanding Microgreens

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One of the big benefits when it comes to growing your own greens is that you can pick and eat them right away. No matter when you harvest them, they’ll be full of nutrients because there is such a short time between harvest and eating! However, this is particularly beneficial when it comes to microgreens. You’ve probably heard about these power houses of the vegetable family and may even grab them on occasion at your local health food store or grocer.

Microgreens - what are they and why should you care about these nutritional powerhouses?


When you get into growing your own greens in salad bowls, harvesting microgreens is another option. They make a great addition to all your salads. But what exactly are microgreens?


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What Are Microgreens

Green leafy plants are considered microgreens in the stage between sprout and seedling. They are usually harvested after they’ve had their first few regular leaves. If you’ve watched a plant grow from seed you notice that a sprout appears first, then the plant develops its first two leaves. Those first leaves look different from the regular leaves of the plan. After that the next three to five leaves pop out that look like those of the grown plant. It is during this stage when the first few leaves appear that microgreens are harvested.
 
You can use a variety of different plants to grow micro greens including lettuce, kale, arugula, chard, watercress, beet and radish greens, parsley, chives, basil, and cilantro.

Microgreens - what in the world are they, and why should you care about these vitamin powerhouses? (Okay, that's actually a reason!)

Why You Want Microgreens

Microgreens are nutritional powerhouses that are full of vitamins.

The exact nutrition will depend on the types of greens you consume. To get the most out of your microgreens, mix and match the plants you use. Nutrients include beta-carotene, iron, calcium, and lutein.

Since microgreens are grown in soil as opposed to sprouts which are usually grown in water, they are able to absorb a lot more minerals and nutrients from the soil they are grown in. A good, rich potting soil will result in the healthiest greens.
 
Not ready to grow your own microgreens? Try sprouting. A kit makes it easy!

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How To Grow Microgreens

Growing your very own microgreens is surprisingly simple. Since the plants are small, they don’t require a lot of light, making it the perfect superfood to grow on your kitchen counter. You’re also harvesting the plants when they are still small and don’t have long roots, so it doesn’t take a lot of soil to grow them either.
 
Get a shallow container and fill it with quality organic potting soil. Sprinkle in the seeds for your favorite greens and herbs and lightly cover them with soil. Carefully mist or lightly water them, so the seeds don’t get washed away.
 
Keep them well watered and in a fairly warm place, and after a few days you will start to see little sprouts appear. Keep growing them until they are large enough to harvest. Reseed and repeat.

3 Reasons to Grow Your Own Salad Vegetables

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Salads make great summer meals and are a tasty addition to your lunchbox or dinner table any time of the year. They make the perfect light meal and you know you should be getting more leafy greens in your diet. (Or maybe that’s just me?)

You know you should be eating more leafy greens, right? Here are three great reasons to grow your own vegetables - even if it's just on a sunny windowsill
Instead of heading to the store to buy greens that are of dubious age and quality, why not plant your own lettuce? There are several reasons why you really should be growing something, no matter how little it is.
 

It Tastes Better

Let’s start with the obvious one first. Homegrown salad just plain tastes better. It is fresh, it has been grown in good soil, and it hasn’t been washed, sprayed, and processed days before it makes it on your plate.
 

You know you should be eating more leafy greens, but who wants to chance e.coli or other nasty bacteria from those bags of lettuce at the store. Grow your own!

If you haven’t had fresh, homegrown lettuce before, you’re in for a treat. If you need a little more convincing get your hands on some fresh lettuce from a gardening friend or your local farmers market. You’ll be ready to grow your own after the first bite. Imagine how much better it tastes when it only needs to travel from your garden (or countertop!) to your table.
 

You Control The Quality And Variety

One of the best parts of growing your own produce is that you control what goes in the soil and the plants. And you get to pick what varieties you want to grow. That means you have a lot more options than what your local grocer offers.
 
Grocery store produce varieties are grown for easy and uniform growth and longer shelf-life. Flavor and nutrition aren’t the main concerns.

The opposite is true when you grow your own.

You can pick varieties that taste amazing, but may not last more than a few hours in the fridge after you harvest them. Search online for heirloom seed companies in your area. Although you can often order seeds from the other side of the country, the best heirloom seeds for you will be adapted to your particular region.

It seems, too, that every time we turn around, there’s another notice about packaged produce, even from “organic” companies, being recalled for dangerous bacteria. We should not have to worry about dying from our salad greens.

 

It’s Healthier

Last but not least, your home-grown salad will be a lot healthier. 
Nutrients quickly start to deteriorate after produce is harvested. When you grow your own, you can go from soil to table in less than an hour. It doesn’t get any fresher than that, which means you get more of the vitamins in your food.
Plus since you control the soil, the additives, and anything that happens to the plans while they grow, you can limit your exposure to pesticides, insecticides and the likes. When you grow organic, you know it actually is organic.
 

6 Things Our Great-Grandparents Did Better Than Us

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Off-Grid Life In a $4,500 Converted School Bus

Homesteaders and off-gridders often look to the past for wisdom, studying how those who came before us – that is, our ancestors — survived tough times without modern conveniences.

Many of them had no cars, computers, electricity or even running water, and yet they seemed to thrive when life got hard.

On this week’s edition of Off The Grid Radio we look to the past as we discuss six things our great-grandparents simply did better than us – six things that could make our modern-day lives better. Our guest is homesteading expert and writer Melissa K. Norris, the author of The Made From Scratch Life (Harvest House).

Melissa tells us:

  • Where people during the Great Depression shopped – and why we need to rediscover this lost art.
  • How our ancestors obtained material for clothes when they ran out of cloth.
  • What our great-grandparents ate when times got tough – a lesson that our society desperately needs to learn.
  • How the idea of “neighbor helping neighbor” kept people alive at the very moment they wanted to give up and quit.

Melissa also shares with us a few stories from her book, including the one about an heirloom seed strand that has lasted more than 100 years in her family! Don’t miss this week’s episode if you want to learn from our ancestors how to survive hard times!

 

More Than Lettuce (Salad Ingredients to Grow Indoors)

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Growing your lettuce in shallow bowls or similar planting containers is a lot of fun and a great way to get more healthy greens into your diet if you can’t have a full garden. While many of us are perfectly happy with a side of salad greens with dinner most nights, it’s nice to have a little variety in our salads. Of course adding other home-grown plants to your salads adds to the overall nutritional value as well.
Expand your 'salad bowl' garden beyond just lettuce!
With that in mind, let’s take a look at various other “salad fixings” that you can grow indoors or on your patio. They make great additions to your salads, but also come in handy in the kitchen in lots of other recipes. Wondering what I’m talking about? Go check out Discovering Salad Bowls and then come back and read the rest.
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Herbs

You can spent a small fortune on fresh herbs at the grocery store. Why not grow your own instead?
You can keep them in small pots or even old tea or coffee pots. Actual little planters are preferable since they have drainage holes, but use what you’ve got and just think of how pretty these little pots of herbs will look all lined up in your kitchen window. If you have a little more space, people have made some really great planters with everything from stacked clay pots to upcycled pallets (just make sure your pallets use untreated wood).
Popular herbs to grow and use in your salads include:
● Basil
● Mint
● Parsley
● Cilantro
● Chives
● Rosemary
● Oregano
● Thyme
… and more. Like lettuce you can either grow them from seed, or pick up small plant seedling at your local garden center.

Plant a salad bowl garden, but don't limit yourself to lettuce. Even if your garden is on a sunny windowsill, there are some great things to add.

Sprouts

Sprouts also make a great addition to your salad. They provide a little crunch and a lot of extra nutrients. But like herbs, they can be pricey if you pick them up at the store each week. Instead, order some seeds online, then sprout your own in a shallow container lined with moist paper towel.

Sprouting is surprisingly quick and easy. The biggest trick is that you have to keep the seeds moist and warm. There are kits that make it even easier, if you are inclined to let your sprouts dry out or get too cool. However, I’ve grown them in a mason jar placed in a dark closet.

Common things to sprout include alfalfa, lentil, mung, rye, soy, and wheat. Start with the sprouts you like to eat, then expand your growing horizon from there.

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Tomatoes And Peppers

Tomatoes and peppers may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re thinking about growing plants indoors, but there are small varieties that do surprisingly well in a sunny window. Of course growing them outside on a patio or balcony in larger containers is also an option.
In either case look for varieties that don’t grow very large and provide a nice little harvest. You should be able to find varieties of tomatoes (mostly cherry tomatoes) and various peppers from hot to sweet that you can grow in a small space and add to your salad.
Not only do they add a nice burst of flavor and visual appeal to your salad, they also make surprisingly beautiful houseplants. And isn’t it more satisfying to grow a plant that also provides you with food?

Onion and Garlic

If you’re feeling a little adventurous, try growing your own onion and garlic alongside your lettuce bowl. While regular onions don’t lend themselves to indoor growing you can plant green onion and garlic bulbs and grow both of those in fairly small containers on your counter. 
Use the green onion, and you can even use the green stalks of the garlic plants in a similar way. It has a mellow bit of garlic flavor that’s not quite as strong as the garlic bulbs that will be growing all along in the soil.
Ready to give it a try? Head to your local garden center and see what you can find.

Discovering Salad Bowls (they’re maybe not what you think)

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Have you discovered salad bowls yet? They are the most amazing idea – a bit of square foot gardening, a bit of microgreens … Have I confused you? I’m not talking about the glass or wooden bowl sitting in your kitchen cabinet that you serve lettuce in. I’m talking about bowls or pots that you can grow your own lettuce in anywhere. Indoor, outdoor, small or big – it’s a great idea that more of us need to look into.
Discover salad bowls - a great way to grow a garden anywhere
The last time I was at our plant nursery, I learned about salad bowls, and I think it’s a fabulous idea. Of course I bought one of my own to see how it all worked.
 
You can repurpose an old traditional salad bowl to grow your lettuce in. Glass bowls don’t work as well since it’s impossible to add drainage holes in the bottom. Your wooden bowls should work well though as do ceramic planter bowls or even large pots you’re no longer using for potted plants.
 
The basic idea is simple. You get a bowl or pot, fill it with potting soil, and plant your salad and salad fixings. A salad or lettuce bowl can include several different varieties of lettuce and a few of your favorite herbs. Or you can add a small tomato plant and a few green onions as well. Mix and match as you see fit, depending on what you like to eat.
 
That’s the fun of growing your own food. You can try different varieties and combinations until you come up with the one that works best for you. Along the way, you get to sample and try different varieties of lettuce your local market doesn’t offer. There’s so much more than iceberg lettuce and spinach out there. If you have never spent time browsing through a seed catalog, especially an heirloom seed catalog, you likely haven’t realized the incredible variety of vegetables that are available to you!
  Pinterest grow salad bowl garden
Salad bowls are small and compact way to give gardening a try. They are also an excellent tool to help teach your children about where our food comes from and how it is grown. Get the little ones involved in planting and caring for the lettuce plants. Not only is it a great learning experience, it’s also a wonderful way to get them to eat more greens. After all, they’ve grown this lettuce. I have found that my children are far more willing to eat vegetables that they’ve helped grow.
 
Lettuce plants don’t have very deep roots, which is why shallow bowls work perfectly for planting them indoors. And since it won’t get super-hot – even in a sunny window- you don’t need a large amount of soil to retain moisture. In other words, shallow bowls are a great way to grow a large amount of lettuce in little space or soil. (If you are going to add other plants, shallow bowls may not work as well)
 
To get started, get a nice shallow planting bowl and a bag of well-aged compost. If you can’t get compost, you need a bag of good quality potting soil that contains a slow release fertilizer. I definitely recommend compost, though. Get them started, watch them grow and harvest once they grow to maturity.

But what kinds of lettuce to grow?

You can grow just about any type of lettuce in your salad bowl. That being said, there are some varieties that lend themselves to ongoing growing and harvesting.

But let’s not put the cart before the horse. The size of your bowl and how many bowls you want to have sitting around determine what type and how much lettuce you can grow.

Or flip that around and figure out how much lettuce you want per week and then figure out how many bowls it will take to keep you from heading to the grocery store.

You can keep it simple and start with one planting bowl. See how you like growing your own lettuce on your kitchen counter or your patio. If you find you’re eating the green leaves as fast as they can grow, consider adding another bowl or two.
Let’s go back to what you can grow in fairly small containers indoors. Loose leaf lettuce is often your best bet when you want to be able to continually harvest greens for your salads. 
You can pick up seedlings at your local garden center and plant a few different varieties in your bowl. Or pick up a few different pack of seeds, divide the bowl into sections and sprinkle seeds from each variety in a different area of the bowl. Not only will using different varieties make it look pretty, each plant grows at slightly different rates and has different nutrients, helping you make the most out of your salad bowl.
Of course you’re not limited to just loose leaf lettuce. You can also grow spinach, green onions and various herbs in containers inside. Mix and match them in your bowls, or set up separate little containers to grow your favorite salad herbs in. If you have enough room, you can even grow some radishes to cut up and add to your salad.
Start with a few different varieties of loose leaf lettuce like oak leaf, butter oak, red sails, or the aptly named red salad bowl. Romaine lettuces also work well and will regrow after you cut the leaves. If you like a slightly peppery taste, don’t forget about arugula.
Mix and match varieties until you find a combination that grows well for you and you like to eat. 
Water your plants, fertilize occasionally with an organic fertilizer and refresh the soil every few month. If you harvest and replant on an ongoing basis, you may never run out of fresh lettuce for your kitchen table.

Discovering Salad Bowls (they’re maybe not what you think)

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Have you discovered salad bowls yet? They are the most amazing idea – a bit of square foot gardening, a bit of microgreens … Have I confused you? I’m not talking about the glass or wooden bowl sitting in your kitchen cabinet that you serve lettuce in. I’m talking about bowls or pots that you […]

The post Discovering Salad Bowls (they’re maybe not what you think) appeared first on Just Plain Living.

5 Attributes EVERY Homesteader Must Have To Survive Tough Times

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5 Attributes EVERY Homesteader Must Have To Survive Tough Times

If you are considering becoming a homesteader, you know the prospect can be pretty daunting. Among all the other questions and considerations which must be asked and evaluated—such as how it will impact employment, children, extended family, social involvement and finances—the concern about suitability for such a demanding lifestyle looms large.

Do I have what it takes to become a homesteader?

If you are asking yourself that question and wondering whether you and your resources and skill are a good fit for living a sustainable and independent lifestyle, read on for the five homesteader attributes I have found to be most important.

1. Intentionality. Homesteaders need to do what we do with a sense of purpose. It is not a lifestyle which one might just tumble into, and with the exception of being raised in that environment it is not likely to happen without intentionality.

Self-reliance may have been the default way of life in generations past, but society has shifted to a place where a person or family must step off the beaten track to follow the path of homesteading.

In order to make it work, homesteaders need to make a deliberate, focused choice. We need to do it like we mean it.

2. Commitment. A full-scale homesteading operation is not something you dabble in, like trying out audiobooks or a different brand of cordless drill. My dictionary lists synonyms for the word “commitment” as “dedicated, devotion and loyal.” Those are good words to keep in mind when entering into homesteading.

5 Attributes EVERY Homesteader Must Have To Survive Tough TimesThis is not to say that it is not possible to try before you buy. There are many ways to try out homesteading activities beforehand, from container crops on your back deck in the city to volunteering on existing farms.

I once knew a young woman who was in love with the idea of homesteading and accepted an apprenticeship on her dream farm. It was all she had thought it would be, but her loyalty lay elsewhere. She soon realized that she was more dedicated and committed to friends and fun in town than to raising crops and tending animals, and was not ready for the commitment that homesteading demands. Fortunately for all involved, the young woman who turned out to be in love with her social life was able to walk away with no hardship on anyone.

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But when you do go into homesteading for real, go all in.

3. Optimism. When your livelihood is dependent upon the natural world, optimism is an absolute necessity. There is always next season to look forward to—more rain, a later fall frost, or the maple sap running better. Homesteaders live in perpetual surety that things would have been perfect, and will be next time, without that one unfortunate anomaly.

Homesteaders need to carry an eternal sense of optimism that makes us plant greens when there is still danger of snow, try our hand at cordwood masonry without any prior knowledge of the craft, and let the six-year-old milk the cow. And we need to pick ourselves up and keep moving forward when things don’t work out quite as planned.

Without this glass-half-full outlook on life, the looming possibilities of hurricanes, Japanese beetles, sick lambs, Lyme disease, broken fences and chimney fires would be too much, and we would decide to move back to the city at the first sign of trouble.

4. Courage. Things can get scary on occasion. Most of us were raised in a very different way—food came from the grocery store and farmers’ market, heat materialized from the nudge of the thermostat, lights popped on and off with the flip of a switch, and water ran hot and cold out of the faucet. Sources for some or all of these amenities are different on the homestead, and many come with at least some level of inherent risk, either real or perceived.

Kids in the city don’t have to sneak past the butty goat buck on the path to their favorite fishing hole, and urban moms don’t leave their bread-making to go shoo cows out of the flower garden or deal with snakes between them and morning chores. Homesteaders handle it all, from inclement weather to grouchy 1,100-pound animals to long walks down a wilderness road to rats in the grain bin.

5. Support. Homesteading is tough single-handed. A single person or couple will face a lot of challenges on their own. Extended family, friends, like-minded neighbors, church community or farm partners make all the difference. Let me say that again for emphasis: all the difference. I will not go so far as to say one or two individuals cannot thrive in a completely isolated homesteading endeavor, and I am certain it has been accomplished many times over. But I will say that it is a hard row to hoe, and lack of support will make it all that much more difficult to create and maintain the first four characteristics.

5 Attributes EVERY Homesteader Must Have To Survive Tough Times

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When my husband badly injured his hand while building raised beds for spring planting, our entire season of homesteading was hugely impacted. Garden beds, getting vegetables in the ground, building and installing trellises and cages, fencing, haying, and firewood processing—not getting it done then meant not having the results later.

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My time and focus went to caring for him first, and then having to pick up his tasks on top of my own. At one of our busiest times of the year, it was too much. Without family and friends who came alongside us and freely gave of their time and skills and even money—planting and building and shoveling and mowing and chain-sawing and splitting and cleaning and animal-tending—we could have been done for.

Final Thoughts

If you are feeling a bit skittish about homesteading after reading this list of important traits, do not worry. Nobody possesses all of these all the time. Nobody. But what we all aspire to have is as many of them as we can, as much as we can, as often as we can.

Attributes can be built and learned, and the five on this list tend to feed off one another. Support builds courage, courage solidifies commitment, and optimism enhances intentionality. The needs for these traits vary greatly. In some situations, homesteaders need all the optimism they can muster and get by with only minimal support. Other times, courage and commitment are the fingers in the dam.

The biggest takeaway is that if you want to build enough of these traits in yourself to succeed at homesteading, you can. You will have to work harder at some on this list than others do, and that is perfectly acceptable and is to be expected.

Homesteading is not for the faint of heart, but it is worth the journey. Develop these five traits along the way, and you will come to realize that you have always had what it takes.

What traits would you add to this list? Share your suggestions in the section below:

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8 Ways To Homeschool AND Homestead Without Going Absolutely Bonkers

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8 Ways To Homeschool AND Homestead Without Going Absolutely Bonkers

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If you live in a homestead and try to homeschool your kids, then doing so may be one of the most challenging tasks you have to face every day.

On top of gardening, food preservation, animal care, mucking, cooking meals, child care AND a dozen more chores in the home and farm, homeschooling is an added responsibility that doesn’t always fit neatly in your day-to-day schedule.

Depending on the number and ages of your children, homeschooling can be either a complex or tedious job that places constant demands on you – mentally, emotionally and time-wise.  Whether you use structured curricula or opt for more flexible, non-traditional teaching methods, and whether you do it alone or with others’ help, it’s still a ball to include in the juggling act you already do every day, keeping a family and a homestead together.

And, whether you’ve just begun with a single preschool child, or you are a seasoned veteran who’s homeschooled three or four middle and high schoolers, you know how things can go crazy both in the home and in the farm without warning. A nanny goat gives birth to a kid who gets goat chill, needing emergency care; a fence gets broken and needs repair before nightfall; baskets of fresh produce sit in your kitchen, awaiting canning; one of the children gets a fever.

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Life on the farm is a far cry from the routine of an office job. At times, in fact, it can be downright dirty and unpredictable. How on earth can you provide a semblance of order, regularity and sanity in the midst of chaos and complexity?

8 Ways To Homeschool AND Homestead Without Going Absolutely Bonkers

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Here are a few tips that can help you manage the homesteading-homeschooling lifestyle without practically losing your mind.

1. Follow your own time. Choose a time of day that works for you and your household. If you prefer finishing the morning chores first – watering the garden, taking animals out to pasture, baling hay — do so, while the weather is mild. Then get indoors when the sun is too hot so you can settle down and shift to your role as teacher. That goes for months and seasons as well. There are those who choose to follow an agrarian calendar, since the autumn months are spent harvesting and canning. Others spread the school load throughout the year, stopping to enjoy one- to two-week breaks on different months only as needed.

2. Integrate homesteading into homeschooling. If you desire and foresee your children pursuing the same lifestyle as you and your spouse’s, begin training them in the farming way of life as soon as they’re ready. Children as young as five or six can already be taught simple skills like watering plants, weeding, feeding chickens, harvesting eggs.

Whenever any of our goat dams give birth, I immediately stop class; rather, I transfer the class into the barn for an on-the-spot training in animal husbandry. My 11-year-old daughter started serving as “birthing assistant” when she was eight. Holding a tray in her hands containing gloves, scissors, iodine, cotton balls and towels, she’s assisted my husband many times in the birthing process and already knows what to do. In a few years she can probably birth a kid on her own.

Remember that homesteading is a lot of science education in itself. Seed-starting is botany. Composting is soil science. Animal processing teaches anatomy. Fermenting kombucha is chemistry. Where else can you find a diversity of real-life, real-time lessons on the spot and on a continuing basis?

 Story continues below video

 

3. Provide the basics, then take it from there. In terms of courses, provide the “3 Rs” — reading, `riting, `rithmetic — then see where your child’s skills and interests take him. After setting a rudimentary course, add and tweak as you go. As years progress and he matures, decide which path he (and the Lord) wants for him and choose which subjects to give priority to. Will it be the sciences? Math? Language? The arts? How about non-traditional lessons that complement an off-grid lifestyle: Beekeeping? Carpentry? Aquaponics? How to harness renewable energy?

8 Ways To Homeschool AND Homestead Without Going Absolutely Bonkers

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4. Include lots of fun stuff. Take the class outdoors. Camping, hunting, bouldering, building a fort, making a small waterwheel, designing a hover craft, the list goes on. For every age and stage in a child’s life there’s a hundred things to learn and discover that can’t be taught in the classroom, and aren’t dependent on the grid. On days that are way too busy or when emergencies arise and you can’t follow the day’s assignments, keep books, analytical board games, puzzles and Sudoku on hand to keep a child mentally busy for several hours. Meanwhile…

5. Don’t forget the “university” of the Internet. There are countless sites online that teach lessons, academic or not, for free. Our children have acquired dozens of skills from YouTube — from piano to sewing to bushcraft to baking.

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6. Take periodic breaks. A weary, burned-out, unhappy parent-teacher makes for an unhappy home, homestead and schoolroom. Try to enlist the help of a husband, grandparent, friend or sitter (if your children are young) so you can go to town and take a breather. If you can’t leave your kids, bring them with you and go on a bi-monthly or quarterly field trip where they can learn without your direct supervision. A trip to the museum, zoo, the ballet, a permaculture farm. Even just a half-day visit to the library every couple of weeks can take some load off your back.

 Story continues below video

 

7. Realize you can’t do everything. Homeschooling takes a whole lot of patience, commitment, sacrifice AND the humble admission that you won’t be able to do it all, all of the time. Find a homeschool co-op. Start one if you can’t find any. Look for other homeschooling families in your neighborhood, church or county. Even just joining an online forum can provide the encouragement you need when you’re in distress, overwhelmed and ready to give up.

8. Ultimately, major on the majors. What skills, habits and values do you really want to develop in your children? For my husband and me, it’s their love for reading. Writing. Research. Critical thinking. Finding alternatives. Innovation.

What work ethic would you want them to have? Are diligence, self-motivation and perseverance encouraged? Over the months and years, as you see your student improve in these traits, give him – and yourself — a pat on the back. You’ve both done a great job! These are attributes not usually applauded or emphasized in traditional schools, where rote learning is the norm and the highest praises are reserved primarily for getting good grades.

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

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3 Problems You Better Solve Before Raising A Mixed Flock

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3 Problems You Better Solve Before Raising A Mixed Flock

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There is nothing quite as picturesque as a farmyard setting with chickens, ducks and perhaps a turkey or two wandering around. Unfortunately, a mixed flock may be more trouble than it’s worth. If you’re considering keeping different species of fowl or poultry together, there are a few advantages and disadvantages to keep in mind.

Advantages of a Mixed Flock

Some common reasons people want a mixed flock includes:

1. Aesthetics. Many people find a mixed flock to be very visually pleasing. While this alone isn’t a good reason to keep different species together, it is important to some.

2. Saves space. Depending on the species you are keeping, you can save space by keeping fowl together. You may be able to keep the fowl in one coop or at least have them share a yard/pasture/pond/etc.

3. Saves money. The above advantage also can mean that keeping a mixed flock can save you money in terms of building materials and fencing. This can be very tempting if you are building your pens or other structures from scratch.

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4. Beneficial for land: Keeping a mixed flock may benefit your property as each species contributes something. For example, chickens are great for keeping insects in check but may not eat pests like slugs. A few ducks will take care of the slugs, however. Chickens and ducks will eat some grass, but geese are excellent grazers.

5. Entertainment: Entertainment may seem like a funny advantage, but just like aesthetics, it can be a huge advantage for some people. Watching the interactions and behaviors between species can be quite fun and even educational.

There are many reasons people decide to keep different species of fowl together, but generally it comes down to saving space and saving money. Unfortunately, keeping different species together can easily become a problem.

Disadvantages of Mixed Flocks

If you are seriously thinking about combining different species, consider these three potential problems:

3 Problems You Better Solve Before Raising A Mixed Flock

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1. Bullying. Bullying is easily the most common problem of keeping different animals of any type together. Fowl, in particular, can be quite territorial and aggressive; a simple Google search will show you numerous threads in forums in which people with just one flock of chickens need help with bullying problems. While some species get along together naturally, like ducks and geese, you can quickly run into problems when it comes to a big size difference like turkeys and chickens. Injuries and death can and do occur.

2. Disease. The next common problem with a mixed flock is disease and illness. There are a couple of specific issues with disease. First off, some fowl act as a disease carrier between species. For example, chickens are carriers of blackhead disease. This is the main reason hatcheries and breeders often stress to keep these birds separate. Secondly, some species are more susceptible to diseases than others. Something like a respiratory issue in a chicken flock can be more easily treated than a mixed flock with the same problem. Simply put, keeping species separate gives you bio-security against disease and allows more efficient treatment of illness and parasites.

3. Malnutrition. There is a common misconception that malnutrition always coincides with being underweight. In reality, livestock can be malnourished even if they visually look well-fed and healthy, even overweight. Malnutrition is simply a condition of livestock not receiving the proper nutrients in their food. Typically, if someone has one type of fowl, say chickens, they will buy chicken food. If they only have turkeys, they will buy a turkey food. Oddly enough, many people with mixed flocks just throw out one type of feed. This will quickly lead to malnutrition, deformities and even death. Each species must eat a species-appropriate diet, which can be very tricky in a mixed flock.

These three disadvantages are just the most common reasons why mixed flocks aren’t a good idea if you don’t seriously take planning and diet into consideration.

How to Make a Mixed Flock Work

If you are set on making your mixed flock work, you will need to do some homework. First off, limit how many species you are going to mix. Two or three species should be your limit unless you happen to have a massive amount of space.

All The Answers To Every Chicken Question And Quandary …

To limit bullying problems, it’s wise to make sure each species has its own areas to hang out around. For example, a large feature will keep ducks away from your chickens, although they may be in the same fenced area. In this case, an added benefit will be that your ducks, who will undoubtedly make a watery mess of their area (be it a pond or sunken-in trough), won’t dirty up your chickens’ water, feeders and dirt bath areas.

Waterfowl should be given ample space in terms of water, so you can avoid bullying problems among geese and ducks. A large pond will allow them to create their own territory boundaries, but if you don’t have that option you should give them different watering spots with plenty of space around them.

3 Problems You Better Solve Before Raising A Mixed Flock

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Despite the potential for disease between chickens and turkeys, many people still keep them together. If you’re only raising two or three turkeys for the holidays, they may get along well with your chickens since it will only be temporary. If you plan to keep more than this or have hopes to breed, it would be best to keep them separate, as turkeys will act quite dominantly toward chickens. They might share a fenced-around area but should not be housed in coops together.

As for feeding, you will need to come to some compromise to ensure all the birds get what they need to eat. You could feed them separately, but this will take up a lot of time. Instead, you should choose which species you cohabitate carefully. For example, you could keep chickens and ducks together on a non-medicated chick grow feed but add in calcium in a separate area for the laying hens and supplement extra protein for the ducks.

Raising a mixed flock can be very rewarding, but should be approached cautiously. Even a healthy, peaceful mixed group could suddenly go bad at the drop of a hat. Always be prepared for this by having some means of housing the birds separately if such an event does occur.

Do you keep a mixed flock or have done so previously? Please share your opinions in the comment section below.

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

Controlling Weeds in an Organic Garden

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Weeds are the bane of any gardener, but they can be especially bothersome to organic gardeners. Many gardeners choose to use weed killer to get rid of weeds, but you certainly aren’t going to do that in an organic garden. So what can you do?
Weeds might take a bit more work in an organic garden, but it is still very possible to deal with them! (For one thing, you can eat some of them!)

Well, you’ll need to identify your most troublesome weed, and then deal with it in the way that best gets rid of that particular type of weed. We’re going to look at a few of the most common weeds, and how to get rid of those weeds.

Dandelion is a really common one that grows everywhere. While they are a fabulous food plant, most gardeners just want to get rid of them. To get rid of dandelions, you need to dig out the entire taproot – and they’re deep.

You should always pull them up with a hoe before they flower. And you can spread corn gluten over the areas you wish to remain free from dandelions in the early spring. This will help keep a lot of the seedlings from growing.

Crabgrass is a major pest in many yards and gardens. It is very tough to pull up, and it is especially hard to get rid of. You must pull up the entire plant, including all of its roots. You can suppress further growth by spreading down corn gluten in the early spring. You can also mulch to prevent the seeds from germinating.

Poison ivy is a horrible plant. It can cause terrible rashes even with very mild exposure. You should always wear gloves when handling this plant, and don’t ever let it touch any part of your skin.
You must cut the plant at the base, then let it dry out completely. Bury the vines, or throw them away in the trash. Never, ever burn poison ivy, because the smoke can be fatal! Do not compost poison ivy.

Lamb’s quarters is an edible wild green. Last week I was showing some to my father and said, “Do you know what this is?” He nodded “Wild spinach!” Even though they are a very tasty and useful green, most people think of them as common weeds. They can be difficult to get rid of. You can hoe or pull up the plants when you see them. Then you should mulch heavily to suppress the seedlings.

Ragweed is a plant that many people want to get rid of, and I am afraid I can’t think of a single good thing to say about it. It’s a very common allergen, and its pollen is a major cause of hayfever. You can hoe up seedlings, and use a mower to mow down full-sized plants. You can use mulch to cover the areas where it grows. You can compost ragweed if it hasn’t yet gone to seed.

Purslane is another edible plant that you should consider eating instead of destroying. Or at least eat some of them. You can remove individual plants by hoeing. If you pull the plants, they can reroot themselves if you leave them lying on top of the soil. The seeds of this plant can mature after the plant has been pulled, so don’t compost them unless you want a compost bed full of purslane. You can mulch to prevent these from growing.

Prickly lettuce is an annoying little plant that is related to dandelion and sow thistle. In fact, when young, it can be easily mistaken for dandelion. It can cause itching and burning if it comes in contact with skin, so always wear gloves when you handle it. You can pull or hoe plants, or cut the taproot below the soil. In much of the United States, prickly lettuce has become pesticide-resistant, providing us with more incentive to deal with these plant pests organically.

You might wish to leave it alone, as it can attract beneficial insects, but it can carry lettuce diseases. Be sure to keep it away from your lettuce patches because it can cross with domestic lettuce. It is also poisonous to livestock, so you should be sure to keep it away from your animals. You can hoe or pull plants beneath the soil line. You can compost it if it hasn’t yet gone to seed.

Weed control in the garden does not require chemicals. Mulching, digging and hoeing are all ways to deal with weeds in your garden.

3 Ingenious Ways To Build An Off-Grid Home For Next To Nothing

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3 Ingenious Ways To Build An Off-Grid Home For Next To Nothing

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The off-grid and homesteading lifestyle has a tremendous amount of appeal for many. In a time of seemingly ever-increasing instability in our world, the idea of living in a truly self-reliant and sustainable way is more attractive than ever.

With that spark of enthusiasm, visions of silver solar panels, white wind turbines, and a sprawling timber home are often not far behind.

The reality for most, though, is that building a traditionally constructed home on our land is both time and financially prohibitive.

This is where non-traditional construction methods and materials enter. By non-traditional, we simply mean homes that are not primarily constructed of new lumber, bricks or stone. In their place, homebuilders utilize low-cost eco-friendly or reclaimed materials, and the construction time and skill required is most often greatly diminished.

In this article, we have gathered three of the most predominantly used, non-traditional building materials people are creating homes with. They are elegantly simple and unique in shape, character and function.

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So without further comment, welcome to this episode of “This Weird House.”

1. Tires: getting traction in construction

Strictly from an environmental perspective, used vehicles tires can be a bit troublesome. Although not exactly the longest in regards to decomposition time (50-80 years), they are plentiful, unsightly and a haven for mosquito breeding.

Fortunately, many companies have recognized these mountains of rubber as a commodity and have begun “upcycling” them. Typically, you will find them shredded into pieces and used as mulch at playgrounds and pavement material for running tracks and the like.

Given as most tire dealers were paying around $2 and up for used tire disposal, it was just a matter of time when someone would see this endless supply of free resources as an asset worth working with in the way of homebuilding.

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The usage of tires as a construction material can likely be credited to the “earthship” movement which started approximately 40 years ago. Today, these earthships utilize tires, which are rammed inside and between with compacted earth, to make up the outside and structural walls of the structure. Stacked flat and in courses much like masonry bricks, it is a construction technique that literally anyone can perform and virtually free of cost.

The other variation to this method is the usage of “tire bales.” What is a tire bale, you ask? A tire bale is simply a huge block of 90-120 tires which have been compressed. The bales are usually around 60 inches long, 50 inches wide, and 30 inches tall. Each bale weighs in at an impressive 1 ton and has an astonishing insulation value of R-186!

Despite their heavy nature, these bales make for quick construction and amazing heating/cooling efficiency. Having been used in the past for construction sites, retaining walls and windbreaks, they are now coming into prominence as a homebuilding material.

To learn more, visit tirebalehouse.com or earthship.com.

2. Shipping containers

Survivalists have been using shipping containers as the foundation of apocalypse shelters and underground bunkers for decades.

But their use need not be limited to a hole in the ground or a glorified metal shoe box with a door. No, creative types across the globe are applying some innovative designs to these ship-worthy hunks of square steel, and the results are downright impressive.

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As the usage of these containers has grown, so has the amount of them used in a building. With a bit of skill and a torch, one can connect several units together to create a modular living structure that goes up quickly and structurally, stands the test of time.

Given a starting price for a typical used shipping container coming in at around $2,000, it is easy to see how this affordable, nearly instant housing concept is taking off.

If you would like to find shipping containers for your next construction project, you can visit Cubedepot.com for local inventory and pricing.

3. House of straw

Does that title conjures thoughts of instability and childhood stories about the three little pigs for you? Maybe thinking how it didn’t work out so well for the pork trio? Set aside, for a moment, your preconceived notions in regards to the stability of straw. We are talking about straw bale construction here, and this is no fairy tale.

3 Ingenious Ways To Build An Off-Grid Home For Next To Nothing

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Aside from the obvious easing of construction time, straw bale houses are roughly three times greater in energy efficiency than conventional lumber framing. This is due to the fact that the bales (along with the stucco) create the whole of the wall unit. Structure and insulation in one block.

When many people hear about the notion of building a home made of highly combustible straw, their thoughts immediately turn to a raging inferno. The truth is that straw bales are so tightly compacted, they leave very little room for oxygen to enter and end up being a safer option than timber framing. In fact, the average lumber home took only 30 minutes to one hour to catch fire in recent tests. The straw bales took three hours (source: strawbale.com).

Another benefit to straw bales is their incredible ability to absorb sound. This is a wonderful quality if you don’t wish to hear activities between rooms of your home.

Lastly, some people who are considering straw bale construction may be concerned that the straw might decompose over time. Worry not. The process of decomposition requires two critical thing:; water and oxygen. Your straw bales, if properly built, will have neither in your construction.

I hope we have inspired you to look at the many different options available for your next construction project. This is but a sample of the innovative ways you can build quickly and economically. Now have fun … and go exploring!

Related:

How To Build A $1,000 Indestructible Off-Grid Home

How To Live Off-Grid With A Full-Time Job (In A Straw Bale Home)

What is your favorite off-grid building material? Share your thoughts on off-grid construction in the section below:

Are You Prepared For A Downed Grid? Read More Here.

5 Ways You’re Throwing Away Money On The Homestead (No. 2 Trips Up Lots Of People)

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Even small expenses can soon add up on a monthly or annual basis on the homestead. Here are five ways that homesteaders waste money that could be put to better use elsewhere.

1. Not repairing clothing

Working on the homestead is hard labor, and it takes a toll not only on the body but also on clothing. However, when good quality clothing becomes worn with a hole, or torn, or loses a button, resist the temptation to automatically discard it and buy new replacements. Instead, learn to mend clothing. A simple sewing kit, manual sewing machine, and basic supply of cloth can greatly extend the service life of clothing.

Also, consider hanging your laundry out to dry. Air drying is much easier on clothing than using a drying machine. After all, that lint in the drying machine filter is just small pieces of clothing material that belong with the clothing, not in the trash.

2. Paying too much in property taxes

Property taxes are an annual evil that siphon away serious dollars that would be better managed by the property owner instead of the government. While there’s no magic wand that can reduce the property taxes on a given piece of property, off-the-gridders should give serious consideration to how much acreage they really need.

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A lot of people yearning to escape modern life in the cities or suburbs dream of 40 acres or a hundred or a thousand. And if your heart’s set on it and you can afford that, go for it.

Otherwise, think about how much property you really want. I lived for years on 40 acres and loved it. But maintaining the perimeter fencing and keeping an eye out for trespassers was a lot of work. When I decided to move, I bypassed the 40-acre and 80-acre properties and settled on five acres. I have enough room for gardening and small animals, but the area is small enough for me to keep an eye on.

3. Throwing away material that can be reused or recycled

5 Ways You're Throwing Away Money On The Homestead (No. 2 Trips Up Lots Of People)

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While many homesteads don’t have trash pickup and they routinely haul it to the dump, many do subscribe to private trash pickup services. If you do, scrutinize the size of the container you’re paying for. You may be able to downsize. Frankly, for homesteads that should be reusing or recycling a lot of material, the smallest trash container available should be sufficient.

4. Not bartering

If you have a thriving homestead, you probably have excess goods or services that others may be willing to barter for. Why buy something from a store when you can barter for it?

For example, my neighbors own a ranch and raise cattle and pigs. Instead of buying beef or pork from a store, I trade chicken eggs, rabbits or produce from my garden for meat from my neighbors.

It works with services, too. I can help the neighbors on their ranch and get some meat in return.

5. Not buying used

There are many opportunities for thrifty homesteaders to buy used items that are acceptable. For instance, new books these days cost close to 10 dollars. So browse in a used bookstore and pick up a great read for 50 cents.

Clothing is another opportunity. While I buy much of my clothing new, I buy used clothing for when I’m working outside. When I’m digging soil or cleaning animal pens, used clothes work just fine for me. Goodwill stores and garage sales often yield gently used clothing for a dollar or less.

Conclusion

Simple changes can yield small savings. However, over time, these small savings become big savings.

What other ways do homesteaders throw away money? Share your ideas 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.

Dealing with Pests in an Organic Garden

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The biggest problem organic gardeners face is dealing with pests. An infestation of aphids or cutworms can absolutely devastate a garden! You can have an entire row of plants wiped out in days, or even hours.
Organic gardeners are not at the mercy of insect pests. The methods are not quite as easy as grabbing a chemical pesticide, but the benefits are much higher!

It’s important to try to prevent infestations, rather than just treating them once they occur. You can do this by spraying your plants with solutions that deter many of the most common garden pests.
There are many organic solutions available, but you can make your own by using recipes that can be found in most organic gardening books. Most of them will be sort of like a tea, made with things like hot pepper sauce and garlic.
When you can, you should try to plant species that are native to the area in which you live. This is why we planted Jerusalem artichokes this year and maintain a rhubarb patch. These plants have natural immunity to many common diseases in the area. There are also plants that are pest-resistant, and won’t have as many problems with pests as other varieties.
If you plant early enough, you may be able to avoid the worst part of the bug season. Insects have just a short period of each year in which they will be active and eating your plants. If you plant early, you may be able to harvest before those insects terrorize your plants. Alternately, if you have the growing season in which to do it, plant later than usual.
While you cannot simply grab a spray and kill them instantly, there are ways to deal with pest insects in your organic garden

You should do everything you can to encourage natural insect predators like ladybugs, praying mantis, ground beetles, and birds. Some types of plants like mint and rosemary can attract many beneficial bugs that can help you keep other insects under control. When I grow potatoes, I pile on lots and lots of hay, which provides a safe environment for the insects that prey on potato bugs.
You should keep a close eye on your plants to spot potential problems before they get out of control. If you see a hornworm on your tomato plants, pluck it off quickly and drown it in soapy water. By watching your plants daily, you have a chance to stop these problems before they become too difficult to handle. Being in your garden daily is good for the plants, but it’s good for you, too.
If you’re having trouble with a particular pest, you can take pictures and then try to identify the pest. Go online and try to search for it. If you can’t identify it, you can take your pictures to your local county extension office or library and ask for help identifying it. There are also sure to be gardening clubs in your area. In our community, the gardening club is filled with people of all ages, including seniors in their 80s and 90s who have many decades of experience growing with our climate, pests and weeds.
Once you’ve identified the pest, you can ask for advice with regards to controlling it. Just be sure to tell them you’re an organic gardener, and ask them if they have any ideas for you.

Don’t forget old-fashioned methods like beer traps for slugs and toad houses to encourage those pest-eating

You may be able to prevent some pests by installing netting over your plants. Although this is probably a last resort, you may be able to save your plants from utter devastation if you have a particularly bad season of beetles or other such bugs.
Just remember, netting will also prevent beneficial insects from reaching your plants, so if some pests make it through, it may be harder to detect them and for predator insects to control them.
If you lose a crop to insects, you may be tempted to abandon organic gardening and rush out to buy a chemical spray. A lot of organic gardeners experience this! Don’t feel bad. It can certainly be very frustrating to deal with pests, especially when you’ve worked very hard to take care of your plants all season. Here is one bit of advice that I found invaluable, though. Beneficial insects (and birds, toads and more) will show up only when there is food for them to eat. Let nature correct the balance, without introducing poisonous chemicals, Ladybugs and lacewings will show up to deal with those aphids. Actually, most of the beneficial insects eat aphids. Ground beetles will definitely appear to eat delicious slugs, caterpillars and cutworms.
Only a tiny percentage – 1% – of insects are detrimental to your garden. The other 99% are your friends and, if allowed, will happily eat the pests!
But just remember, organic gardening has so many benefits that it’s really worth it to go through all of the extra work. Your family will be rewarded with healthy food that is safe to eat!

Benefits of Organic Gardening

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If you are concerned about the quality of the food you are feeding your family, and tired of reading reports about food poisoning from fruits and vegetables, it is time to look into organic gardening. Grow your own food, in your own back yard, and eliminate the worry about what you are eating.
If you have not switched your garden to organic, non-chemical methods, here are some solid reasons to do so.
When we moved to our property, friend gave me a lot of old gardening books. One of them detailed how to get rid of pests in the garden. I was pretty excited to find out how our grandfathers dealt with weeds and pests.
Arsenic. 
Sevin. 
Paraquat. 
Lead. 
Mostly, though, arsenic.

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For every insect or weed, there was a poison. One entry acknowledged that pigs were traditionally used to root up and eliminate a certain type of weed – but arsenic worked faster and was therefore the better choice.
My faith in the wisdom of our grandparents took a real hit that day.
We now know just how dangerous all of those chemicals that we spray plants on can be. Many chemicals have been banned because they were shown to cause cancer! But some of these dangerous chemicals have not yet been banned (depending on where you live), and there may be plenty of hidden dangers that haven’t yet been discovered.

Check out 9 Ways Conventional Farming Is Killing Us.

When you garden organically, you can feel safer about the food you eat – and for good reason. You’ll know that the food you’re feeding your family is safer and healthier than the questionable stuff you find in the grocery store. 
Unfortunately, unless you have seen the food grown and picked, you can not guarantee that the seller is telling the truth about it. The mister worked for a while at a “family fruit farm” that heavily promoted itself as providing local, organic food. His job was to take apples out of the shipping crates (because Michigan isn’t ‘local’ when you live in Canada) and put them through the machines that coated them with fruit wax.
You and your family deserve to eat safe and healthy food!
There are some solid reasons why you should be switching your garden to organic, non-chemical methods.

Organic gardening is also extremely beneficial to the environment for several reasons. For one thing, every time you spray your plants with chemicals, those chemicals wash off of your plants and onto the ground. From there, those chemicals wash down into the ground, and eventually make it into the groundwater!

Insects that have been poisoned do not simply disappear. Often they eaten by birds or other animals. These animals can then become sick and die. If the toxicity was high enough, any animals that eat those animals might also perish. Unfortunately, as I have often said, there is no such thing as a “pesti”-cide – all of the ‘cides are poison, plain and simple.
By killing too many of a certain species of insect, you can also cause an imbalance in the local wildlife. If you and your neighbors kill off a large portion of the population of one insect, then anything that depends on that insect for food might also start to die off.
Unfortunately this creates a situation in which the predator insects and animals, which naturally keep pest levels under control, can not be found. It is very important to realize that only 1% of insects are actual pests. The other 99% play vital roles in our ecosystem and often directly benefit our gardens.
Organic produce is also known for its superior flavor – even if proponents of garden chemicals poo-poo the very idea.

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For example, organic carrots are widely known for being much sweeter than traditionally-grown carrots. They don’t have the same bitterness that other carrots can have. This is a very good reason to grow your produce organically, even if you aren’t worried about the chemical effects to your body and the environment.
There are obviously a few drawbacks to gardening organically, too. You have to deal with pests differently, and it can be a longer and more complex process to rid your plants of certain pests. Instead of picking up some chemicals, you have to pick off insects by hand and drop them into soapy water.
You have to spray your plants with solutions made of things like hot peppers and garlic to prevent some bugs from eating them. It can be difficult. You also have to stick to organic fertilizers like manure, rather than using easy chemical fertilizers.
But organic fertilizers can actually be cheaper, because you can make them yourself. Fish emulsion is a common organic fertilizer. It’s a sort of tea made from dead fish. Seaweed fertilizer is another tea-like fertilizer that many organic gardeners swear by. We buy composted manure by the dump truck load for about $32 per ton – that’s a lot of value for the dollar – to supplement what our goats and chickens provide.
And of course there’s natural compost that can help you make use of your kitchen waste! The benefits of organic gardening far outweigh the few drawbacks.

Fish Farming: The Overlooked Path To More Income, Tons Of Food, And Less Worries

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Fish Farming: The Overlooked Path To More Income, Tons Of Food, And Less Worries

Generating an income that can sustain operations on the homestead is critical for many of us.

Newly established homesteads require a decent amount of income to add acreage, outbuildings and livestock, as well as purchasing many other items or services. Well-established homesteads also require a steady income to repair and replace, upgrade and add on to provide for needs or wants. Perhaps you are looking to replace an income from a 9-5 job; there are numerous ways to make that happen on every homestead.

Homesteaders, especially those who have the desire to be completely self-sufficient, are frequently researching new opportunities to generate a sustainable income on the homestead. We sell fruits and vegetables at farmer’s markets, livestock to local butchers, and milk and eggs to friends and neighbors.

Ready to try something new this year?

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Fish farming, used for centuries in many parts of Asia, is also a good way to generate income on the homestead. Also called aquaculture, fish farming provides not only enough meat for those living on the homestead, but will eventually produce plenty to sell at local markets. It need not be expensive, either. The cost of setting up an aquaculture system can be relatively low for those who already have water sources on the homestead, such as a pond or stream.

Fish Farming: The Low-Cost Path To More Income, Abundant Food, And Less WorriesFish farming is similar to growing plants. Fish require steady temperatures, daily nourishment, and relatively clean water to flourish. Providing these essentials will result in large, firm fish that will make for easier sales in local markets. In my area, we have a couple of fish farms that regularly sell out of each week’s harvest during the farmer’s market season. They have found that aquaculture generates an income great enough to sustain the rest of their homestead every year.

There are several methods for small-scale fish farming, including:

  • The cage method, which can be further modified to include a flow-through component.
  • The greenhouse method, which includes raising hydroponic plants to filter and add nutrients to the water.
  • The contained method, in which one pool or tank is used in conjunction with several filters and aerators to maintain water quality.

Which method you choose depends largely on what water sources are available around your homestead. The cage method, consisting of a system of cages submerged in ponds, is perhaps the least expensive method, as ponds have a natural filtration system in place. A slight variation on the cage method involves using a nearby stream with a system of cages, allowing water to flow freely through each cage and providing nutrients to the fish that are carried to them continuously by fresh water.

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Starting a greenhouse operation is the most difficult, due to the many variables that need to be taken into consideration. In addition to the cost of the greenhouse materials and tanks for holding large volumes of water, you also may need to purchase or produce chillers or other cooling mechanisms in extremely hot weather to keep water temperatures in the range necessary for the fishes’ survival — a considerable financial investment.

A simple pool or even a livestock tank can be used to set up a contained system for aquaculture. Water filters and aerators will definitely be a necessity to ensure healthy fish. This type of system can be quite inexpensive.

Not all types of fish will flourish in your location. Choosing the right type of fish for your homestead’s environment may take a bit of trial and error, but a small amount of research will lessen the amount of losses due to the weather.

Have you ever “fish farmed”? Share your tips and advice in the section below:

Learn How To ‘Live Off The Land’ With Just Your Gun. Read More Here.

Green Alternatives to Dry Cleaning

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The chemicals and waste in dry cleaning – you want better for your clothes, your family and your planet. Am I right? There are definitely green options when it comes to clothing!

Welcome! It’s great to have you here. While there are many terms for the sustainable, frugal, self-sufficient lifestyle, I call it JUST PLAIN LIVING, and I hope you’ll join me on the wild and wonderful journey.

There are green alternatives to the chemicals and waste of dry cleaning!
Dry cleaning uses a harmful chemical called Perchloroethylene or PERC for short. This chemical is petroleum-based and has shown to cause severe health problems. It’s been labeled a “probable carcinogen” by the International Association for Research on Cancer. While some dry cleaners are switching to more green alternatives, they are hard to find, especially if you live outside of a major city. 
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One such green alternative is using a pressurized CO2 process. It can be more expensive than using PERC however, the cost to your health and the environment are significantly reduced. You can also take significant steps to clean your sensitive fabrics at home. 
This eliminates the need for plastic or wire hangers which often end up in the landfill. It also eliminates the need for plastic covers to keep your clothing clean. Again these plastic covers usually end up in the garbage because very few recycling centers have the ability to deal with them. Even if they did, recycling will reduce, but not eliminate, the waste.

Home cleaning is much more environmentally friendly.

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Skip buying clothes that need dry cleaning

Yes, it’s a simple solution however it’s also an effective one. 
I stopped buying anything that required dry cleaning a long time ago. Dry cleaning is expensive, time consuming and the clothes tend to cost more money too. Natural fibers can be cleaned at home, even silk and wool, and they feel better on your skin.

Hand wash

Wool, cashmere, angora, and even silk and rayon can be gently hand washed. Use a mild soap designed for hand washing. Woolite or Castile are both still effective and there are earth friendly detergents too. Make sure the water is warm, not hot. You should be able to comfortably place your hands in the water.
Fill a sink with warm water, approximately 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Use the mild detergent. Allow the garment to soak. Gently agitate with your hands. Then rinse the garment. Experts recommend adding a bit of distilled white vinegar to the rinse water. Reshape and dry flat on a towel placed on a flat surface. 
If you’re washing silk the water can be a touch warmer – 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

Earth-friendly alternatives to the chemicals and waste of dry cleaning

Garment steamer and other accessories

With silk and other items that will wrinkle when they are dry, use a garment steamer to remove the wrinkles. Additionally, the heat from the steam will kill bacteria. A linen brush or a soft bristled brush can be used for some items to brush away any debris or caked on mess. If there’s no stain left behind or no sign of dirt a steamer can finish the job. There’s not always a need to wash something with soap and water.

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Also remember that clothing doesn’t need to be washed every time you wear it.

Unless there’s a stain or visible dirt most items can be worn several times before they need a cleaning. It helps the clothing last longer.

Cleaning at home saves you time, money and the environment. You eliminate harmful chemicals from being put into our soil and water supply. You also eliminate the risk of exposure to toxins like PERC. It’s good for you and good for the planet.

The 3 Types Of Preppers (Which One Are You? It’s OK – We Won’t Tell)

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The 3 Types Of Preppers (Which One Are You? It’s OK – We Won’t Tell)

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“You’re like a closet prepper!” an associate exclaimed to me during a recent conversation. After considering her words awhile, I’m ready to admit that, yes, I am a closet prepper.

Those of us who homestead do not necessarily consider ourselves to be preparedness experts, but the natural result of living on a functional homestead means we are more prepared to meet unexpected challenges and crises than a majority of our neighbors. Homesteaders in ages past were the original preparedness experts and following their example, modern-day homesteaders are some of the most prepared.

But first, what is a prepper? A prepper is one who has made preparations to provide for his or her own immediate needs during a crisis situation – whether that be a natural disaster, man-made crisis or a job loss. Clean water, nourishing foods and a secure shelter – those are all a part of the prepper’s plan. Most plans include stockpiling. Preppers also gather other essential goods, such as medicines, fuel for a variety of heat sources and physical money.

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Recent terrorist attacks remind us that we are not immune and that disaster could strike at any time and without any warning. The day may come when we face a tragedy that includes the loss of a major portion of the power grid, our transportation system or even our food supplies. We are certainly not exempt from the effects of an ever-turbulent weather forecast. One major volcano, such as happened during the summer of 1816, would disrupt much of the food supply and cause unrest in the general population. Prepping is simply common sense.

So, what type of prepper are you?

1. The closet prepper

Bucking up against those who mock at the preppers, closet preppers quietly begin implementing a plan to prepare themselves for handling a crisis. A closet prepper may have a small stockpile of six weeks to three months’ worth of food stored in portable containers under the bed, or in an out-of-the-way closet, or even stored off-site. Maybe they have a small flock of chickens for fun or for eggs. A few patio containers may contain a handful of herbs grown for use in making herbal teas or poultices. The closet prepper also will find ways to unobtrusively integrate preparedness standards into the landscape, such as decorative barrels for water collection.

2. The backyard prepper

The 3 Types Of Preppers (Which One Are You? It’s OK – We Won’t Tell)

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For a majority of people, the backyard prepper is the safe middle ground between ignoring the real need for emergency preparedness and the extreme survivalists shown on reality television shows. Backyard preppers may have a nice stockpile of food, often six months to one year’s worth, in addition to growing a garden or raising poultry for meat and eggs. They also may invest in alternative energy sources, such as solar or wind.

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Both potable and non-potable water collection and filtering systems may be seamlessly integrated into the home, giving the homeowners access to clean water no matter the circumstance. For some, this level of preparedness comes naturally through daily living; however, many of today’s young adults are unaccustomed to this way of living and think that the transition to a more self-sufficient lifestyle is wholly unnecessary.

3. The bunker prepper

Many of us know one person who is forever speaking about how no one is going to make it when the next catastrophe strikes. Although this attitude is not always held by bunker prepper, this level of detailed preparation does require a commitment of time and resources that is sure to stand out in the crowd of closet and backyard preppers. The bunker prepper not only has a fully stocked pantry, including medicines, physical money and other items of value for bartering with, but even may store this stockpile in various locations to ensure availability. If food becomes scarce, the bunker prepper has field guides to refer to and has also foraging knowledge that allows him or her to glean edibles from the surrounding areas. An alternate location for sheltering off the grid is usually secured for this level of preparedness. This location may have easy access to water and forgeable plant life, while being protected from outside intrusions.

No matter what type of prepper you most identify with, each one has recognized the great need to prepare for whatever we may face tomorrow. Planning for emergencies, whether natural or national, is the best course of action for any one person to take.

What type are you? What would you add to this story? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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9 Ways To Survive Off-Grid Without Air Conditioning (Just Like Our Ancestors Did)

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9 Ways To Survive Off-Grid Without Air Conditioning (Just Like Our Ancestors Did)

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It’s common to talk about keeping warm as part of survival, but few people actually bother to talk about keeping cool. Yet, for those of us who live in the south, keeping cool in the summertime can be as much of a survival issue, as keeping warm is for our northern cousins.

We solve that problem in true American fashion, by staying indoors and keeping our home, places of business and even cars air conditioned. But what about when the power goes out? What can we do then? Air conditioning consumes a lot of electricity to operate, so without electrical power, we have no readily available means of cooling … or do we? After all, our ancestors survived this sort of climate; so if they could do it, we should be able to do it, too.

The trick, as with many other parts of urban survival, is to look at how our ancestors did things a century or two ago and figure out how to adapt that to our modern-day lives.

Obvious Means of Cooling

1. Stay in the Shade

While the ambient air temperature in the shade isn’t really any cooler than it is in the sun, the apparent air temperature can be quite different. The sun beating down on our skin turns to heat, adding to the heat we’re receiving from the air around us. So, judicious use of shade is a valuable tool.

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This needs to be a factor in how we design our homes, as well, especially in our use of landscaping. Building a house where it is overshadowed by large trees is a great way to keep it cool. Those of our ancestors who could do so built their homes where shade already existed. Those who couldn’t often planted trees as soon as they moved in, especially on the south side of their home.

Another manifestation of this is the wrap-around porch. These weren’t built so much as to give people a place to sit outside in the shade — although they did do that — but to keep the sunlight from coming through the downstairs rooms. At the same time, the sun wasn’t heating the ground up right around the home, causing the breeze coming through the windows to heat up before entering the home.

2. Use Fans

Sweating is the body’s natural means of shedding excess heat. When the sweat evaporates, it absorbs large amount of heat from our bodies, cooling us. Wind, in any form, helps to improve that cooling process by speeding up the evaporation process.

Homes built in the south were often situated in such a way as to catch whatever breeze was available, especially the homes of the wealthy. A good breeze can make any home seem cooler than it actually is — and make it rather enjoyable to live there.

The whole idea of building summer homes along the beach stems from this idea. An offshore breeze will often be cooler, simply because of the evaporation of seawater. By building a summer home on the shore, wealthy people were able to escape the stifling heat of the city.

3. Go for a Swim

Of course, the other advantage of those seaside homes was the ability to go for a swim anytime you wanted to cool off. Water absorbs heat from our bodies faster than air does, especially already hot air. The cool water will cool your body off, and then you can get a bonus from the wind when you climb out of the water all wet.

This is why building a swimming pool behind a home is such a popular addition for those who can afford it. Few of those people have ever used their swimming pools to swim laps; rather, they use them as a quick and easy means of escaping the heat.

4. Have a Cold Drink

This one is so basic that we do it without thinking. Entire industries have been created around the idea of giving people something cool to drink when they are hot. Of course, we don’t just drink when we’re hot, but most of us try to be sure to get our fair share when it’s hot out … and don’t be skimpy about the ice, either.

The Less Usual Means of Cooling

Okay, so those are the obvious means of cooling, but that’s not all they used. While our ancestral architects took advantage of nature as best they could in designing homes to stay cool, there were other methods that people used on a regular basis, which can serve us well.

5. Go Underground

One of the easiest ways of keeping cool in hot weather is to go underground. It doesn’t matter what the above-ground temperature is; it will be cooler beneath the surface. For that matter, it will get cooler and cooler, the farther underground you go.

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People who had natural caves on their property were considered to be fortunate. Not only would they use those caves as a means of escaping the heat themselves, but they would use them as natural root cellars, taking advantage of the natural refrigeration that nature offered. Those who weren’t blessed by a natural cave would often dig one, more for use as a root cellar, but it wasn’t unknown to go underground to cool off on a hot day.

In the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, there are countless underground caves, called “cenotes.” These have hidden lakes in them, so they give an extra measure of cooling, over and above the cooler air. The air temperature itself can be about 70 degrees Fahrenheit on a day where it’s 105 outside, but then the water will be another 10 degrees cooler. Talk about a quick way to cool off.

In much of the Great Plains, settlers built half-underground homes, called “soddies.” They would dig out an existing bank and then face it with blocks of sod, cut when they were breaking up the ground for farming. Being underground, they were cool throughout the summer. At the same time, the earthen construction made for great insulation in the winter, keeping them comfy warm in the coldest of storms.

6. High Ceilings and Second Floors

Basic physics tells us that heat rises, so giving it a place to rise to helps. That’s why the ceilings in antebellum mansions are high. As the heat rose, the space beneath it was kept cooler. Granted, it was only a few degrees cooler, but it stayed that way for many hours, even into the heat of the afternoon.

Cathedral ceilings do the same thing. That’s why those mansions always had a grand entryway with a wide staircase leading upstairs. While it was great for impressing visitors, it also gave the hot air someplace to go, besides bothering people in the living spaces of their homes.

The second floor of these homes worked hand-in-hand with the high ceilings, acting as a buffer between the heat of the sun beating down on them and the people trying to stay cool. Have you ever tried to go up in an attic during the heat of day? It’s stifling. Well, that attic is doing the same thing, separating you from the roof and the heat the sun is creating by beating down on your shingles. Adding another floor in-between helps improve the effect.

Judicious opening and closing of windows is important in this as well. They didn’t want to open the windows until it was warmer inside the home, than it was outside. Then, once it was, they’d open the windows, which would allow the breeze to flow through. At night, they’d leave the windows open until the coolest part of the night, before closing the house back up.

7. Careful Selection of Building Materials

We’ve looked at several ways that the building of homes was planned to take advantage of whatever cool air was available. But what we’ve done here in the United States can’t hold a candle up to the homes of Latin America.

Mexicans and other Latinos learned long ago that a home with thick walls worked extremely well to keep out the heat of day. The walls would also radiate off whatever heat they had, during the nighttime, so that they could absorb heat during the day. Thus, the adobe home was invented.

Adobe is a clay brick, made with poor quality clay (lots of dirt in it) and straw to hold it together. The bricks are baked in the sun, and more of the clay mixture is used as mortar. Building in this manner, homes had walls that were two-feet thick or more. They served as great heat absorbers and radiators, helping to equalize the temperature during the day/night cycle.

The lower overall mass and thickness of modern-day cement blocks doesn’t come close to providing the natural cooling of adobe, although it does last much longer.

8. Learn to Use the “Cool of the Day”

The Bible tells us that Adam walked with God in the cool of the day. You don’t really understand this until you have lived in a hot climate. It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that this is referring to the evening, when the sun is going down and the day starts to cool off.

But for those of us who chase cool weather, the coolest part of the day is early in the morning, before the sun starts heating things up. If I have to do anything outside in the summertime, I get up early in the morning and do it before the day has a chance to heat up. That way, I can do the work while it’s easier for my body to take it. Then, when it’s hot, I can stay in the cool house, hiding from the heat.

9. Store a Little Bit of Frozen Lake

9 Ways To Survive Off-Grid Without Air Conditioning (Just Like Our Ancestors Did)

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Finally, anyone who has little girls is bound to remember the opening scene of the movie, when the ice cutters are on the lake, cutting ice blocks to store in the ice house. Some ice houses were built above ground, but the best were always underground, where it was naturally cooler.

A well-run ice house would gather ice all winter, storing it up and insulating it with straw. Then, in warmer times those ice cutters would load up their closed and insulated wagons and go house to house, selling ice for the people to use in ice boxes.

While that “technology” may seem arcane today, were we to suddenly lose all electric power, that would be the only refrigeration available to us. Those of us in the south would be jealous of our northern cousins, who had refrigeration available to them in the form of ice boxes, when all we had for our ice boxes would be warm milk.

What advice would you add on staying cool during summer? How did your ancestors keep cool? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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Bees: The Easy Off-Grid Money Maker

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Bees: The Easy Off-Grid Money Maker  The subject of homesteading often focuses on various methods of gardening, different types of livestock, or even the multiple ways to generate electricity.

But one area that is often overlooked is bees. As a growing number of homesteaders and off-gridders are discovering, honeybees are a great way not only to grow your own all-natural sweetener, but also to deliver another steady source of income.

Beekeeping is this week’s subject on Off The Grid Radio, as we talk to beekeeper and homesteader Derek Abello, who runs a prominent bee removal and relocation service in Arizona and who is an expert on getting started in beekeeping.

Abello tells us:

  • Why homesteaders and off-gridders should consider beekeeping.
  • How beekeeping can provide extra cash beyond simply the selling of honey.
  • Why beekeeping is far easier than most people realize.
  • Which equipment is needed – and not needed – to get started.
  • How bees can be obtained for free, saving you lots of money.

Finally, Abello tells us how bees helped him and his family get off processed sugar. He also shares advice for those homesteaders who might be squeamish about working around bees.

If you are looking to live a healthier life and wanting to make some extra cash, then this week’s show is for you!

 

A Quick Guide to Chemical-Free Gardening

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Every year, thousand of chemicals are poured into the environment and millions of gallons of water are needlessly wasted.  How? By growing vegetables.

You can certainly grow a garden without chemicals and wasteful amounts of water!

Sure, most of this is done by large agricultural producers, but some of it is still done in personal gardens. And that means that you can make a difference by changing your gardening practices. There are many agricultural producers who have done it, and you can use the same tricks to help your own garden, and the planet.

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Pick appropriate plants

Not all plants are appropriate for the area you live in.

While you might be able to control the temperature, humidity, and rain conditions inside your house, you can’t do it out in the garden. If you pick appropriate plants for your area, you may be able to avoid using fertilizers and save on water too. Take the time to discover what plants grow naturally and well in your growing conditions, and try planting them in your own garden.

Wildflowers are just that – they can pretty much be left alone and will thrive in most areas.

Find out some quick ways to maintain your garden without chemicals that harm the planet.

Pick pest repellant plants

You don’t need to rely on poisons to keep away pests that ruin your garden.

Many plants produce chemicals that repel these animals naturally. By putting them in or around you garden, you can keep your garden safe with little effort and no chemicals. Plus, you can pick parts of these plants and use them to make products to keep them away from you too.

If you don’t want to plant natural repellents in your garden, you can use them to spray your plants without harming them or adding artificial chemicals to your garden. Many herbs like hot pepper, vanilla, and lavender can help repel insects from your garden.

Here’s another tip – provide a safe habitat for beneficial insects, birds and amphibians. I have been asked “What do you do about potato bugs?” and offered a container of pesticide powder. Potato bugs have not been a problem for me, though, since I grow my potatoes in plenty of hay. The hay provides a safe shelter for insects that eat potato bugs. Encourage toads with toad houses between your plants.

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Pull weeds

We’re all looking for a quick and easy way to safely get rid of weeds without chemicals, but the good old fashioned way is still very effective.

If you take time every day to pull the weeds you can find, you’ll only take a few minutes so it doesn’t seem like a lot of work.  You can even get the children involved, just be sure to do it properly so you don’t spread the seeds around.

Some of those weeds are edible, too, and are powerhouses of nutrition!

Crop rotation

Farmers all over the world use crop rotation to naturally fertilize plants. The concept is to change what crop you’re putting in a certain field each year. Plants use different nutrients and put other nutrients back into the soil. If you rotate crops that replace the nutrients the other plants use, you will have to fertilize the soil less.

You can use this same concept in your garden by planting different plants every year, or just rotating where you put specific plants in the garden.

So, you’ve made all these changes and are using a low-water, chemical free garden?  Well, you still haven’t done the most important thing:

Pass it on!

One garden can make a dent, but more can make a bigger difference.

Tell your friends. Teach your children. You can even visit their school and teach your childrens’ friends!

Every little bit helps make a better world.

Tips For Anyone Considering Going Off Grid

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May 23rd, 2016

Video courtesy of Fouch-o-matic Off Grid

On April 25, 2013, Nick and Esther moved to an off-grid yurt in the woods, with our three children. Three years later, we reflect on what we’ve learned and how we’ve changed.

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6 Reasons To Start Homesteading This Year (No. 3 Could Save America — If Everyone Did It)

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6 Reasons To Start Homesteading This Year (No. 3 Could Save America -- If Everyone Did It)

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Are you thinking of starting a homestead? Does the thought of growing food, tending animals and living independently sound attractive to you? If so, then you are not alone, as each year thousands of Americans discover the joy of the self-sufficient life.

But if you are on the fence, here are six reasons why you may want to get going on your homesteading plans:

1. You want to provide food for your family.

Many people who start a homestead do so because they are sick of being reliant on their local grocery store for food. Food prices are skyrocketing, quality is diminishing, and you never know exactly where your food is coming from. When you start your homestead, you will raise the majority of your own food, ensuring it is healthy and nutritious. Also, once your homestead is up and running, you can build a stockpile of healthy food for times of need.

2. You want to simplify your life.

Living in an urban area can be tough: The hustle and bustle of daily life, the fast food and the reliance on technology all eat away at your mental and physical health. If your desire is for fresh air and a good hard day’s work outside, then it may be time to begin your homestead.

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People who have left their city ways and embraced all homesteading has to offer report feeling and looking better almost immediately. Their stress level drops, they sleep better, they eat better and they have an overall awareness for the world around them that they have never had before. This promotes a great sense of overall well-being.

3. You want your family to be close.

Modern living has shot a bullet through family life. We are so busy with social distractions, work, sports, school, etc., that we have forgotten what it looks like to be a real family. Few families share a meal together even once a week. The family table has become nothing short of a gathering place for mail and other junk — or a place to do homework. If your desire is to gather your flock together and promote teamwork and unity, nothing will do it faster than starting a homestead. That’s because running a homestead efficiently takes teamwork, and lots of it. Your children will learn the true value of physical labor, and you can enjoy shared meals that you have grown yourself and with less access to the hectic life of the past. You will learn again to have fun together as a family.

4. You want to learn new skills.

6 Reasons To Start Homesteading This Year (No. 3 Could Save America -- If Everyone Did It)

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Homesteading requires that you learn new skills, and, of course, you need to learn skills to be independent and keep your homestead thriving. There is no better feeling than to be able to manage your own life and property without needing assistance. Learning new skills improves your confidence and also allows you to be a blessing to others in need.

5. You want to be self-sufficient.

Whether you move off grid or even partially off the grid, you will be more self-sufficient than about 90 percent of the population. Think about it: Most people rely daily on everything from the power company to the water company to the grocery store.

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Reducing your independence on these services is the first step to becoming self-sufficient. Homesteading offers the chance to live independently, and this provides a strong sense of security.

6. You want to save money.

For many people, the initial cost of starting a homestead and going off grid can be scary. But over time, you will save money. Becoming less dependent on others by raising your own food, learning new skills, utilizing alternative energy sources, etc., will result in substantial cost savings. Take the time to compare your current budget with a proposed budget about one year into your homestead. You will see, pretty quickly, that you can save quite a bit of money.

Of course, homesteading is not for everyone. Always take the time to do your research before purchasing a property and starting a homestead. If you do decide it is for you, then you will need to do even more research to determine things like location and property size. This will help ensure that your journey into homesteading is a rewarding one.

What would you add to this list? Share your additions in the section below:

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Easy Ways to Be More Eco-Friendly

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We all want to do our part to protect the environment, but without a large paycheck, that can be seem difficult, if not impossible. But doing your part doesn’t have to be hard, and it is possible to be green, sustainable and frugal. Small steps add up to a big difference, you just have to know which ones to take.

Forget "all or nothing" - here are three simple changes you can make in your life to make your home a bit more earth-friendly

Here are three SIMPLE steps that you can take to make your home just a bit more earth-friendly.

Use less water

Saving water is all about small steps, here are a few that will help save big.

  • Shut off the water while you brush your teeth
  • Take showers that are a minute or two shorter
  • Install a low flow shower head.
  • Better yet, install one with a quick shut off. Get wet, turn off the water, wash and then turn the water back on to rinse.
  • Only flush the toilet when you need to.
  • Only run full loads of laundry and dishes
  • Buy from sustainable producers. These are farmers, ranchers, and other producers that use techniques that pollute less and use less water. You can do some research online or ask at your local organic market to find these products.
Here are three simple earth-friendly practices that you can implement today to start making your home a bit more green!

Use less energy

If you don’t have the money to buy a hybrid car or convert your house to 100% solar power, you can make a big difference with small changes.

  • Buy energy efficient appliances.  They may be more expensive, but make up for the increased cost in lower energy bills.
  • Unplug chargers when you’re not using them.  Cell phone and other chargers use up powers even if there’s nothing attached to them.
  • Put devices with remotes, like T.V.s, VCRs, and stereos, on a power strip and turn it off when you’re not using them.  These devices use a lot of power to run the remote receiver even when the device is off.
  • Walk or ride your bike for short trips. 
  • Buy local products. It takes energy to transport food and other products across the country. Buying local not only supports your local economy, it helps them use less energy.

When it comes to saving energy and water, it’s a great idea to get the children involved. You can even make it a game. Have them track how much water and electricity everyone is using. You can compete to see who uses the least water.

You can often count on children to help keep you on track when given the task.

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Reuse

Most of us know the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle, but when we work on conserving, we often leave reuse out of the picture.

While you can often find tips on how to reuse common products from other people, what you need most is creativity. With a little thought there are many items around your home that can be reused – toilet paper holders can be used to sow seeds for the vegetable patch. And old yogurt containers can be cut into strip to make plant labels. Old food jars can be refilled with homemade dry mixes or can make great impromptu vases. (Please do NOT reuse old food jars to preserve food.)

Use environmentally friendly products. And no, I’m not advocating that you rush out and buy a bunch of “green” cleaners and products. Here’s why.

When you go to the grocery store, you probably see more and more “natural” or “eco friendly” products every time.  There are generally two big problems with these products:

1. Just because they’re more natural than regular products, doesn’t mean they’re entirely natural.

2, They’re often expensive.

If you want inexpensive, natural, safe products, the best ones are homemade. Vinegar is a great way to clean and disinfect glass and other surfaces. Need to remove stubborn stains? Just add some baking soda to your vinegar cleaner.

We all knowing that going green is better for the environment, but it’s also better for you.  Conserving resources also helps save you money, which is something most of us are happy to live with.

Bye, Bye Rats: The 7 Best Homestead Dogs For Vermin Control

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Bye, Bye Rats: The 7 Best Homestead Dogs For Vermin Control

Jack Russell terrier. Image source: Pixabay.com

 

Many breeds of dogs were originally bred to be “ratters” — that is, their ancestors were bred to hunt and kill vermin.

In fact, many of these dogs are terriers. Terrier is from the Latin word “terra,” which means “for earth.” Most terriers “go to ground” after burrowing animals, and these dogs have been used on farmsteads for centuries. Hunting rats is their specialty, but some were bred to hunt foxes and badgers as well as moles and other animals.

When you think of the terrier breeds, words like tenacious, tough and determined come to mind. Now you know why. These guys needed to be feisty and rugged to go into a burrow after vermin, drag them out and kill them.

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These breeds include border terriers, cairn terriers, dachshunds, Jack Russell terriers, miniature schnauzers, rat terriers, west highland white terriers and others. These are short-legged, well-muscled little dogs built for the job at hand. Most have a short, rough coat to shed dirt if left natural, and a short thick tail which was used as a “handle” to pull the dogs out of burrows. Most do not quit easily, so owners would grasp their tail to encourage them to abandoned their quarry.

Let’s take a look at the best seven “vermin-control” dogs:

1. Border terriers – Border terriers originated in the hills between England and Scotland. Like many of the terriers, they have a waterproof coat. They also have a wiry outer coat with a soft undercoat, perfect for working outside in the damp wet weather of their homeland. They average 11 to 16 inches tall and coincidentally are usually 11 to 16 pounds. They can be good family dogs if well socialized.

Bye, Bye Rats: The 7 Best Homestead Dogs For Vermin Control

Cairn terrier. Image source: Pixabay.com

2. Cairn terriers – Cairn terriers get their name from the Scottish Gaelic word “cairn,” which which means a human-made stack of stones – due to their ability to push through these stone fences while going after vermin. They originated in the Isles of Skye around the year 1500. Also a small, stout dog, they range in height from 9 to 13 inches and weigh 13 to 18 pounds.

3. Dachshunds – Dachshunds are a German breed of dog. Their name, translated, means “badger dog.” They were used as a scent hound to locate and chase badgers, flushing them out of burrows. There are now three coat types – wire, smooth and long haired. They are typically 8 to 11 inches tall and 11 to 20 pounds. Most believe the original dogs used to hunt badgers were larger than is typical of modern dachshunds.

4. Jack Russell terriers – Jack Russell terriers were originally bred for fox hunting. They are an English breed named for the Revered John Russell, who enjoyed promoting these little dogs for that task. They are agile and athletic, going anywhere their prey will lead them. They are about 10 to 15 inches tall and 15 to 18 pounds.

Bye, Bye Rats: The 7 Best Homestead Dogs For Vermin Control

Miniature schnauzer. Image source: Pixabay.com

5. Miniature schnauzer – Miniature schnauzers are of German descent. They are said to be a cross of the poodle and standard schnauzers that were bred for as a Jack-of-all-trades-type farm dog, helping with herding as well as vermin. The miniature schnauzers are intelligent versatile dogs with the terrier attitude. They typically range from 10 to 15 inches tall and 10-18 pounds.

6. Rat terriers – Rat terriers are an American breed that was bred for a farm and hunting companion. Traditionally they excelled at squirrel and rabbit hunting due to their speed. They were common during the 20s and 30s on many small farms. They can be 10 to 18 inches and 10 to 25 pounds.

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7. West highland white terriers – Westies, as they are commonly called, originated in Scotland in the mid-1500s. They are a cousin to the cairn terriers and used mainly as ratters. Westies have a wiry outer coat and soft dense undercoat to keep them warm and dry. They range from 9 to 11 inches tall and 15 to 20 pounds.

These are just a few of the most popular breeds that have been used on farmsteads for centuries to help control the rodent population. Many people today have farm cats for that purpose, but the problem lies in the fact that most cats are not as reliable as dogs. Cats seem to hunt when the mood strikes, whereas most dogs find great joy in the adventure.

The terrier group as a whole is independent, smart and rugged. Their personalities reflect their hunting heritage; many people would call them stubborn.

To enjoy a terrier, you need to provide them with plenty work and socialize them with small pets and children. They can be great dogs, alerting you to anything out of the ordinary. Needless to say, they enjoy digging and exploring, even it is in your garden of prized vegetables or flowers. If you are considering a farm companion that barks at anything amiss and can dispatch ground animals in the blink of an eye, then try terriers.

What advice would you add on terriers and dogs who chase after ground varmints? 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 Benefits Of Raising A Hog On Your Homestead

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May 9th, 2016

Video courtesy of Becky’s Homestead

Becky tells you how much it cost to raise a pig and explains how she gets the hog to the butcher and shows you how much meat you get from one pig. She breaks down all the prices and tells you the final cost per pound for this awesome home grown organic meat.

New Book Reveals the Little Known Secrets of How To Maintain An Extremely Low Profile In An Age Of Hackers, Snoops, Data Miners, Corrupt Bureaucrats and Surveillance Grid Profilers.

 

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