Homesteaders, Here’s How to Get the Skills You Need

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Homesteaders who grew up on a farm, or whose family lived in a rural area, are very likely to have many survival skills in their arsenal.

If that’s you, things like milking a cow; butchering a pig; fixing a tractor; repairing a chicken coop; sewing, mending, and washing clothes by hand; and many others could have been part of your education growing up. Parents and grandparents were likely your teachers, as they wanted help with these chores and an extra pair of hands comes in handy.

If you did not have this opportunity because you lived in urban or suburban areas or your parents were busy working outside of the home, you can still get the skills you need to homestead.

Homesteaders, Start Here

The first place to start is the Internet. Search for any skill in which you have an interest, and there is likely a video online of someone doing that. Even if this is not “hands-on” learning, it will still give you an idea about what you may be getting yourself into.

Some videos are better than others, so you may have to watch a few to find one that features a good teacher.

This will usually take you to that person’s website and other written resources that may be available on that skill.

Gaining Skills Through Hands-On Learning

While online tutorials can be a great way to learn the basics about a particular skill, there’s no doubt that the very best way to learn a new skill is “hands on.”

Connecting With Locals

When I started researching resources for our property, I found people in the area who were already doing some of the things I wanted to do: raising goats, raising ducks, and growing vegetables and fruit trees.

You can always ask someone questions about how to do what they are doing, so that’s exactly what my husband and I did. One woman gave us free goat-milking experience. A local fruit tree grower gave us useful hints on how to successfully raise fruit trees and bushes in our area.

Taking a Class

A more intensive way to connect with people who already have the skills you want to learn is to take a class in a specific skill.

Recently, my husband and I attended a weekend at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina. He took a class in beginner wood turning and I took a beginner class in weaving on a loom.

We both had a great time and enjoyed working with the instructors in our respective classes.

Weaving New Skills

Our classes started on Friday evening, right after dinner, so that we could get as much done as possible over the weekend.

In my class, the instructor helped us to pick out the yarns we would use from an extensive collection they had in stock. Every color of the rainbow was represented in a few different fibers, and each person was allowed to choose a palette.


Homesteaders Weaving Loom 1 KT


I was amazed at the number of technical terms that are used in loom weaving and asked the teacher for a glossary, which she provided to all of us. We learned how to measure the threads and get them set up on the loom so that by the second afternoon we could all start weaving.

Preparing the loom is the most time-consuming part of weaving, and proper preparation makes all the difference in the final product.

Learning to Turn

For my husband, the first night included basic instruction on the tools and a demonstration of safe wood-turning technique. The teacher made sure that students had proper tools at the work stations before they made some practice pieces on the lathe.

By the end of the weekend, my husband had made a honey dipper from apple wood, plus a pen and a pizza cutter handle with different colors of wood.

Sunday, after breakfast, everyone was given an opportunity to show off what they had learned. It was incredible to see all the end results.


Homesteaders Weaving Scarf KT


The other classes for that weekend included beekeeping, making a kaleidoscope, basket weaving, iron forging, playing a native flute, three-dimensional paper folding, wood carving, felting, and journaling with watercolors. Amazingly, that is only a tiny sample of the various classes that they make available throughout the year.

Only the Beginning

When we returned home, my husband researched local classes with an eye toward improving his wood-turning skills. I also located a local weaving guild that I can join.

Taking the class was just a beginning. Lots of practice will still be needed to hone our skills, but now we know how to start and can add to our knowledge as we go.

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12 Ways To Conserve Water and Electricity

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As homesteaders (in all our forms), we seek to change our lifestyle to become more sustainable, and part of living intentionally is conserving resources. Striving to conserve water and electricity in your Apartment Homestead should be a top priority.

Why conserve? Because there are certain resources we absolutely cannot live without, and our homestead lifestyle is entirely unsustainable without them. For modern homesteaders, a key resource is water. We can’t grow food, raise animals, or survive without water.

Let’s talk about an awesome “s” word that defines these “lifestyle changes”:


Many modern homesteaders have the option and ability to replace the source of their energy.

But when we rent our apartment or condo homestead space, we can only seek to conserve instead of replacing many of those necessary resources. We require water, but we need electricity also, and our power comes mostly from unsustainable sources—like fossil fuels.

I have yet to meet a landlord who is willing to switch us over entirely to solar or wind energy or install a gray-water system … though I hope that day is coming!

So as renters, we must learn to conserve water and electricity in our apartment homesteads through some simple lifestyle changes.


Let’s start with water—the ever necessary and perhaps most wasted resource in our world today. Good ol’ H2O. We can’t live without it because we’re 60 percent made of it. H2O is a resource we can’t afford to waste!

First, a BIG tip for conserving water: Fix any and all leaks!

A drippy faucet can waste GALLONS of water a day. If you’re a renter, remember that your landlord is supposed to respond to your request for maintenance. That’s one perk of apartment/condo living! Ask your landlord to fix your leaky faucets and toilets.

Dishwasher vs. handwashing

What uses more water: running a dishwasher or handwashing dinnerware?

The answer depends on your machine efficiency. Do a little research to see how much water your particular dishwasher uses per load. If it uses more than six gallons per load, it isn’t efficient. Ask your landlord to change it out with a high-efficiency appliance. If that’s a no-go, use these tips to make your dishwasher more efficient:

  • Run your dishwasher only when you have a full load.
  • Turn off the heated dry to conserve energy.
  • Clean your dishwasher regularly to ensure it is working properly.
  • Use natural dishwasher detergent (Stay tuned for my dishwasher detergent recipe in another article of the Apartment Homesteader!)

But what about handwashing your dishes?

The average faucet dispenses two gallons of water per minute. Unless you’re a super-speed hand washer, you’ll probably end up using way more than six gallons of water, which means the dishwasher option uses less.

But if you don’t have a dishwasher or want to use even less than the average 6 gallons of water per load, you’ll need to get a little creative. Try the 2-sink trick.

The 2-Sink Trick

  1. Put a stopper in one side of the sink and fill it halfway (approximately 1-1 1/2 gallons) with warm water and soap.
  2. Stop up the other side of the sink and fill it just under halfway with cold water (if you only have one side of a sink, fill a five-gallon bucket 1/3 full with cold water).
  3. Scrub/wash dishes in sink 1.
  4. Rinse dishes in sink 2.
  5. Drain sink 1.
  6. Use the water in sink 2 to water plants in your garden, flush your toilet, or rinse out some laundry. Pour it into an empty milk jug for easy re-use.

A few notes about handwashing dishes:

  • Make sure to use natural, bio-friendly soap.
  • Use warm water instead of hot water. Hot water requires energy to heat.
  • Consider asking your landlord to install low-flow faucets.

Shower vs. Bath

Now that you have some ideas for conserving water when washing dishes, let’s talk about saving water when you bathe!

The shower versus bath debate is pretty easily won by the shower. Where a bath can use 35-to-50 gallons of water, a 5-minute shower uses more like 25 gallons of water with a conventional shower head.

But there are ways to cut down even more on your water usage while cleaning yourself.

First, ask your landlord to switch your current shower head to a low-flow shower head that uses only 2.5 gallons per minute—cutting your 5-minute shower usage in half.

Consider using the military shower trick: Turn off the water while you lather up.

Catch and reuse water

The shower is a great place to catch and reuse water. While the water is warming up, put a bucket under the faucet to catch the water that would usually go down the drain. Use that water for your indoor garden, flush toilets, or hand-wash some laundry.  Pour the water into an empty milk jug for easy use.

Ladies (and gents with long hair), another easy way to conserve water in the shower is only to wash your hair every couple of days. You know how long it takes to wash shampoo out of long hair, and we won’t even talk about conditioner.

Depending on the weather, you might even consider showering every other day—though if it’s hot outside, you should at least rinse off after sweating, so your body doesn’t reabsorb the toxins it sweat out.

Use homemade dry shampoo or pop on that baseball cap in between hair washings. Stay tuned for a future article on making and using your own personal care products to keep you feeling clean and fresh between washings.

Another tip for conserving resources in the shower:

Take warm or cool showers. You’ll get in and out faster, conserve more water and energy by making your water heater work less.

Ask your landlord to insulate your water heater and turn down the heating temperature slightly to conserve even more.


Have you seen the MEME floating around Facebook? It is a photo of a kid in an African village saying, “Let me get this straight: You have so much clean water that you $hi+ in it?” Unfortunately, that’s too true …

Here are some ways to conserve water in your bathroom:

  • Fill a plastic bottle with water and put it in your toilet tank to reduce the amount of water per flush.
  • You could also use a brick for the same effect.
  • Check for a leaky toilet by putting food coloring in the tank. If the color seeps into the bowl without flushing, you have a leak. Ask your landlord to fix it.
  • If you need more water to flush after putting the plastic bottle in the tank, use the shower water or dish-rinsing water from the 2-sink trick to flush with more water.
  • Also, never flush anything other than toilet paper. Other things—like tissues or tampons—take more water to flush down, and they are not bio-friendly.

Laundry: Machine vs. Handwash

We’ve considered how to conserve water in every other form of washing, so let’s end this section with water conservation in our laundry.

Similar to the machine vs. handwashing debate above, machine washing your clothes is more efficient in general.

As long as you wash only full loads of your clothes in cold water with bio-friendly soap, you’re better off machine washing than washing by hand.

Here are some things to consider in your laundry cycle:

  • Only use the correct amount of soap per load and turn off the “extra rinse.” If you use the right amount of soap, the extra rinse will be unnecessary.
  • Only wash when you have full loads, and use your conserved shower water to hand wash anything you need in between loads.
  • Wash in cold water only to reduce the amount of energy required to heat the water.
  • Reuse towels multiple times before washing. Use a homemade fabric refresher to keep your clothes and towels fresher for longer. Stay tuned for an easy DIY fabric refresher recipe.
  • Pretreat any stains in your clothes, so you don’t have to continue rewashing stained clothing and to use more water in the process.
  • Also, conserve energy in the laundry room by hang or line drying your laundry. Consider asking your landlord to insulate your water heater and switch out your current washer and water heater with high-efficiency models.

8 Water-Conserving Quick Switches and DIYs

There are so many simple ways to conserve water in your apartment homestead. Try out these twelve simple lifestyle swaps and DIY projects.

  • Use the 2-sink trick for washing dishes
  • Cut down to 5 min showers every other day (or less)
  • Collect pre-shower “cold” water in bucket and store in empty milk jugs for use around your apartment
  • Ask your landlord to install low-flow shower heads and faucets (Or purchase them yourself and reinstall the old ones when you move out)
  • Put a bottle filled with water in your toilet tank
  • Ask your landlord to insulate your water heater
  • Only run your washing machine when you have a full load and use only cold water. Turn off the extra rinse.
  • Hang or line dry your clothes.


Apartments are power guzzlers. We live in such close proximity to one another, but each of us is on our own power grid. Our air conditioning, heat, electronics, appliances, and lights all guzzle electric energy.

There are a bunch of easy ways to conserve electricity in your apartment homestead, and none of them take more than a minute to implement.

Try these energy saving switches at various times throughout your apartment tenure.

Immediately after Move-in:

  • Replace bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs.
  • Plug all your electronics into a power strip so you can turn the strip off when you’re not using it.
  • When not connected to a strip, unplug all electronic devices when not in use.
  • Insulate your windows and doors.
  • Don’t place any furniture over your registers. Make sure your air can flow freely.
  • Install sun-blocking curtains for the warmer months.

Throughout your Lease:

  • When not needed, turn the lights off.
  • Unplug chargers when they aren’t charging.
  • Turn off your electronics power strip when you’re done.
  • Use lids on pots and pans to heat faster and use less energy.
  • Run your furnace fan on auto, so it isn’t constantly running.
  • Turn your AC temperature up in the summer and the heating temperature down in the winter. Put on less or more clothes to keep you at a comfortable temperature.
  • In the colder months, open your sun-blocking blinds and use the sun’s heat to your advantage.
  • Turn off the A/C and open the windows.
  • If you choose to use your clothes dryer, clean your dryer lint trap after every load.
  • Ask your landlord to install an energy-saving clothes dryer, fix any drafty windows or doors, and insulate your water heater.
  • Replace your furnace filter regularly to ensure it is working properly.

When you move out:

Pay it forward: Make sure your landlord knows about anything that needs to be fixed so that it runs more efficiently and suggest that the landlord switch out any non-efficient appliances for future tenants.

You might even consider sharing this blog with your leasing agency! Ask them to share it with all their tenants so more apartment dwellers can make these easy lifestyle changes in their apartment and help conserve our valuable resources.

4 Electricity-Conserving Quick Fixes and DIYs

  1. Replace light bulbs with Energy-Efficient bulbs.
  2. Insulate windows and doors and install blackout curtains.
  3. Plug all electronics into power strips and turn them off at night and during the day when you’re not using them.
  4. Ask your landlord to fix or seal drafty windows and doors and insulate your water heater.

Using the water and electricity conservation ideas above, you can make some simple, yet effective lifestyle changes and be on your way to sustainability in your apartment homestead.

In the next article, we’ll discuss how to conserve fuel in your apartment homestead and explore ways to limit your trash production.

Sustainability, here we come!

If you like this article, you’ll also enjoy: Take The Plunge Into Apartment Homesteading

How are you being sustainable in your apartment or condo? Let us know in the comments below.





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Take The Plunge Into Apartment Homesteading

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With everything happening in the world right now, including politics, climate change, natural disasters, a lifestyle of grotesque wastefulness, and our reliance on technology and fossil fuels, you might have cause to worry. As someone who lives in an apartment or condo, what do you do? Apartment homesteading is the way to go!

The movement toward small, single-family farms and gardens, growing and raising one’s own food, and learning the skills of our ancestors shines as a little glimmer of hope for all of us.

My Story

I rent a one-bedroom apartment in a moderate-sized city. This apartment has a small patio, limited kitchen space and storage, and is located off of a state highway in a huge complex with tons of college students. There is very little I can do in the way of serious “survival” or “old-world” skills.

If I can homestead, so can you!


Let’s take a look.

What is Homesteading?

“Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of foodstuffs … Modern homesteaders often use renewable energy options, including solar electricity and wind power. Many also choose to plant and grow heirloom vegetables and raise heritage livestock. Homesteading is not defined by where someone lives, such as the city or the country, but by the lifestyle choices they make.”

There are some very important words for us Apartment Dwellers!

  • Self-sufficiency
  • Subsistence agriculture
  • Home preservation of foodstuffs
  • Renewable energy
  • Plant and grow
  • Raise
  • Lifestyle choices

When you think of modern homesteading, do you picture a large plot of land in a rural area with a house that runs on solar power, a few acres of vegetables, a working well, a mature orchard, a stocked pond, sheep, goats, chickens, and rabbits? Does the picture include a homesteader who makes his or her own clothing, cans his or her own food, and could pretty much survive off the grid without too much trouble?

The Homesteader’s Philosophy

The most important words on that list is “lifestyle choices.” The entire homesteading philosophy is built around the quest for changing or altering your lifestyle in ways that promote self-sufficiency, sustainability, and positive change.

A Homesteader …

  • … educates and trains himself or herself to grow, make, raise, or cultivate everything he or she needs to survive.
  • … gets to know his or her surroundings so that he or she can work with it to do what he or she needs to survive.
  • … uses, reuses, mends, creates, and remakes the resources he or she has so that he or she can sustain his or her lifestyle.
  • … is an agent of change in a society that relies too heavily on mass production and technology to survive.
  • … learns how to survive by his or her own means, and perhaps, to teach the skills and lifestyle to others.

It’s not where you live. It’s how you live.

Even now, in my tiny apartment, I consider myself a homesteader.

I am an Apartment Homesteader, and you can be, too!

  1. I could do everything to save money, read and learn about homesteading during my apartment tenure, and dream about my future homestead. But I would not be acting as an agent of change. I want to promote change NOW.
  2. My homestead looks a lot different from the ideal of a “modern homestead” that you might have pictured.
  3. There are herbs and potted vegetable plants are on the patio and kitchen counter.
  4. Conserve as much energy as possible, and use as little as possible.
  5. There isn’t an option for a gray water system, so conserve water use in your apartment.
  6. The thought of raising livestock in an apartment is very funny! Seek out homesteaders and organic farmers in your region who sell at the farmer’s markets or who are willing to trade labor for goods.
  7. It isn’t about where you live … homesteading is about how you live TODAY.

The methods may be different, but the philosophies are the same:

  • Educate yourself on how to grow as much food as you can.
  • Learn where to find everything you need to survive. Make a list of the things you will need to survive.
  • Get to know your region to find gardeners who share your ideals and desire change.
  • Purchase from companies who have sustainable practices and business models.
  • Get to know the energy and resource systems that are connected with your apartment.
  • Find ways to conserve water and electricity, and implement more sustainable energy practices.
  • Use, reuse, mend, create, and remake all of your clothing, gear, cleaning supplies, and personal care products. This lifestyle choice helps conserve resources and promotes sustainability.
  • As much as you can, end your personal reliance on mass production and technology for survival.
  • Learn and do everything you can to survive on your own means as much as is possible, where you are now.

Are you ready to take the “Apartment Homesteader” plunge?

Why be an Apartment Homesteader?

It isn’t easy. Becoming an apartment homesteader takes work—intentional work.

But the benefits are amazing!

First, write down why you want to be an apartment homesteader. When times get tough, your big WHY will help you get through. It’s super-easy to cave into buying that mass-produced item or slipping out to grab a cheap burger when you can make it healthier at home.

Putting Down Roots

The first true benefit in Apartment Homesteading is the way in which a temporary home feels more permanent with a few acts of conservation and sustainable living.

Apartment Homesteading gives those of us in “temporary” living situations a sense of place and the ability to put down literal roots. It gives us a sense of permanency and a sense of being home, which makes it feel less transient.

Through the acts of growing our own food, being present in your environment through conservation and sustainable acts, and living within your means in preparation for the future, we feel as though we belong to the earth, the land, our communities, and ourselves.

Our identity is bound to that belonging.


The idea of belonging leads to a truly beautiful benefit of apartment homesteading: community.

As an apartment or condo dweller, it is impossible to be a subsistence gardener. It is impossible to grow all of your own food, raise animals for meat, milk, cheese, or eggs, or get “off the grid” through the use of sustainable solar and wind energy.

Like-minded Individuals

However, connecting with like-minded people to trade goods, resources, and talents to get all of the food you need is a great idea. You can learn the skills you need from modern homesteaders and work with your community in a garden space that benefits everyone.

It is mutually beneficial to help homesteaders operate by trading labor for goods, which allows you to get your hands dirty and be a part of the production of all of your food.

Apartment homesteading gives you the opportunity to reach out to people around you who have the same goals, ideas, and concerns.

It provides a community connection for those of us living in what is typically a solitary life.

Broadening the Sustainable Living Reach

Finally, one of the best benefits of apartment homesteading is its ability to bring the move toward sustainable living into the most unsustainable lifestyles and locations.

We literally live on top of one another in our apartment complexes. We don’t live in places known for sustainability practices. Many of us live in cities whose carbon footprints are off the charts, and most of us don’t know what to do about it.

As apartment homesteaders, we make the choice to live sustainably and lessen our reliance on big-ag and big-pharm.

As we plant and use our herbs for medicinal purposes, make chemical-free cleaning supplies, and conserve our use of natural resources in our apartments or condos, we demonstrate to the people around us that sustainability is a choice we make for ourselves—not a decision dictated by where we live.

If I can do it, you can do it. And if we can do it, they can do it.

Apartment Homesteader Goals

Every homesteader needs to set some goals. In order to make a difference with your apartment homestead, create goals that are specific, manageable, and easily accomplished.

We want to promote change! That means you have to be the change.

What goals can you implement in your apartment to move toward self-sufficiency, lessen your reliance on big-ag, preserve food and resources, conserve energy and natural resources, and make sustainable lifestyle choices?

Look to these major categories for the changes you can make:

  • Conservation – Water and Electricity
  • DIY – Do as much as you can for yourself, or learn how
  • Chemical-free living – make your own cleaning supplies and beauty products
  • Gardening – container gardening is perfect, even in small spaces
  • Home Medicine – growing herbs on your kitchen counter is a good place to start
  • Community – reach out to like-minded community members

Here are 12 first-year goals for your apartment homestead, one for each month:

  1. Unplug appliances when not in use
  2. Replace all chemicals in your home with natural, sustainable products that you make yourself
  3. Plant two vegetables in pots for indoor or patio growing
  4. Experiment with Instant Pot and traditional canning techniques to preserve food for cold months
  5. Grow at least 5 different herbs in a mason jar herb garden
  6. Learn the basics of herbal medicine and implement herbal remedies for common maladies
  7. Find and inquire about volunteering for two modern homesteaders in your region
  8. Find a co-op, CSA, or community garden in your area
  9. Cook all of your own meals from scratch
  10. Take a basic living skills class in your area, such as baking bread, growing food, sewing basics, canning, home repairs, emergency preparedness)
  11. Learn basic first aid and CPR
  12. Hang your laundry out to dry (even inside!)

None of these goals are too big or cost a ton of money. As a matter of fact, they may save you money! All of your goals should be somewhat flexible to account for life happenings. Start small, because those small steps will make a big difference in the long run. Celebrate each goal as you accomplish it. If you have already accomplished some of these goals, choose another one?

What skill do you need to add for your apartment homesteading success?

We are defined by the lifestyle choices we make

There is one trap that every homesteader risks falling into—unrealistic expectations.

When it doesn’t work

Sometimes sustainable living projects that you attempt in your apartment simply won’t work.

You may discover that some of the modern homesteaders you hope to work with don’t practice what they preach.

Relying on the systems may be something you have to do, meaning you may not reach all of your goals. Be kind to yourself. You tried. Be curious. Is there another way to accomplish that goal?

None of these “shortcomings,” mean your apartment homestead has or will fail. Keep moving forward!

Remember that any change toward sustainable living is a good change.

Set realistic, manageable, and sustainable goals in your apartment homestead projects, but remember you may experience setbacks and have to alter your original plans.

Find or Create Community

And most importantly, find or create a community you can count on for support.

Share your ideas and goals and your testimony of change with your apartment- or condo-dwelling friends.

Seek out leaders and guides in sustainable and self-sufficient living practices and glean all that you can from them, and offer your support, too.

A tribe of apartment homesteaders can make real, measurable waves in the urban housing world.

Next in this series, follow along as we explore each apartment homesteading goal. Then, implement your own apartment homesteading goals where you live.

You’ll get the REAL story of this apartment homesteading adventure…

… remember, it’s not about where you live; it’s about how you live.

We—the apartment homesteaders—are defined by the lifestyle choices we make, not where we live.

Need some small space composting ideas? Check out this article: 5 Cheap And Easy Solutions For Small-Space Composting.

Are you Apartment Homesteading? Tell us your story in the comments below.


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7 Homesteading Jobs For Winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crazy Gadget Can Jump-Start Your Car — And Charge Your Smartphone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthy Backyard Geese

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Healthy Backyard Geese We have all heard about backyard chickens. One of the great investments of life if you do not have them yet. There is also an argument about having ducks instead of chickens. I do love some fresh duck eggs. What is news to me, however, is this article about backyard geese. I …

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A True Homesteader!

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A True Homesteader! Host: Bobby “MHP Gardner There is a lot of interest in being self-sufficient these days. People are looking for information on how to grow and store their own food, provide their own meats, go off-grid with solar setups… get out of the system so to speak. We see a lot of these … Continue reading A True Homesteader!

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7 Invasive Weeds You Can Turn Into Livestock Feed

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7 Invasive Weeds You Can Turn Into Livestock Feed

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Most homesteaders have to deal with some kinds of invasive plants. On our farm in upstate New York, the main culprit is multiflora rose. People planted it as deer feed back in the 1960s and now, it’s everywhere, taking over hayfields and pastures with its sprawling big-thorned fast-growing stems. Multiflora rose removal was one of my least favorite chores: heavy, prickly and never-ending. Then we discovered that our goats enjoyed eating multiflora rose. And then we learned that it was actually good for them.

I still spend time every summer hacking down multiflora roses in the orchard and pasture, but my attitude has changed. Instead of endlessly beating back a useless nuisance, I’m harvesting a forage crop.

Deciding What’s Safe To Feed

I’ll discuss some specific nutritious invasives below. I likely won’t include all the invasives in your area, so you’ll need to do some of your own research. This may be complicated by the fact that there’s a lot of conflicting information out there. Some plants, for example, appear both on lists of safe food for rabbits and lists of plants toxic to rabbits. Here are a few factors to keep in mind as you decide what to feed your animals:

Many plants are safe when fed as a small portion of the overall diet, but become problematic in heavy concentrations. It’s generally not a good idea to offer only one or two types of forage to your animals, or to feed huge quantities the first time they’re introduced to a new food. Offered free choice, as part of a varied diet, many weeds can be safe and healthy. Some, like mountain laurel or locoweed, are truly poisonous and should be completely avoided. But if you find a lot of recommendations and some cautions around a particular plant, you might try offering your animals a small amount of it and seeing what happens.

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Toxicity and nutrition may vary depending on your location and soil type. Try asking local farmers and/or your local Cooperative Extension about the effects of plants grown in your area.

Some plants are healthy at one stage, problematic at another. For instance, we feed young leaves of burdock and curly dock to our rabbits, but after the plants have flowered we stop feeding; older plants may accumulate nitrates to the point of mild toxicity. If you keep cutting plants off before they go to seed, you can harvest young leaves over a long season.

Plants that are safe in themselves may be unpalatable or unsafe if they’re diseased. Clover is generally a safe and healthy feed, but in my region in wet summers it can develop white mold; we take care not to feed any of this to our rabbits, since rabbits are highly mold-sensitive.

Many different plants may share the same common name. Use Latin names in your research to be sure you have the right plant.

A Gallery Of Gourmet Weeds

1. Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora), the thorny invader previously described, contains 10-13 percent protein, and it can help ruminants to expel worms. Goats, sheep, cows and horses can eat it. Our goats don’t mind the thorns. After the rose has flowered, our goats may get diarrhea from eating too many of the hips at once. I’ve seen one report of a horse injuring its eye on the thorns.

2. Kudzu (Pueraria montana). Farmers south of us have reported great success with feeding kudzu to cows, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens and horses. It’s high in protein, and apparently highly appealing to many animals. Given its legendary growth rate, it’s a nearly inexhaustible food supply.

7 Invasive Weeds You Can Turn Into Livestock Feed

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3. White mulberry (Morus alba) is an invasive tree in many states. Its protein-rich leaves and stems are a valuable feed for cows, goats, sheep and rabbits; pigs and chickens will eat its fruit.

4. Burdock (Arctium spp.) is a nuisance in pastures. Its flat leaves spread widely, killing everything else; its burrs tangle in animals’ hair. But young burdock leaves, cut before the plant flowers, are rich in protein and minerals. We feed tender small burdock leaves to our rabbits, who tolerate them, and larger leaves to our goats, who relish them. Chickens and cows also will eat burdock leaves, up to a point. Older leaves may accumulate excessive nitrates, so don’t feed them heavily.

5. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) does just what its name suggests. I was very displeased when it started taking over a corner of our pasture. Then I learned that it’s rich in protein, iron, calcium and vitamins. Once it’s dried, it no longer stings. We give our dried nettle to nursing mother rabbits in the early spring before other rich foods are readily available. Chickens, pigs, cows, horses, sheep and goats also can benefit from eating dried stinging nettle.

6. Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) self-seeds copiously and comes up in dense mats. Since it starts to grow earlier than many other annuals, its leaves can provide an early treat and a vitamin boost for chickens, rabbits, goats, cows and sheep. Later in the year it may be less palatable—and any way you’ll want to cut it or graze it before it goes to seed. Some sources say it shouldn’t be given to horses.

7. Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus) takes over garden beds and farm fields. It’s widely agreed that young plants which haven’t yet set seed are safe and nutritious feed for chickens, rabbits, pigs, sheep, cows and goats. We’ve fed seeded redroot pigweed to our rabbits with no ill-effect.

What are a few of your favorite weeds to feed livestock? Share your 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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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!

Survival Hunting: How To Create A Food Plot — For Free

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Survival Hunting: How To Create A Food Plot -- For Free

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If you’re a homesteader, hunter or survivalist, then you may have seen videos or read how-to books about making a food plot in the woods – all requiring purchases that can run in the hundreds of dollars.

In this story, I’m going to tell you how to make your own food patch for free, nothing out of pocket.

For those of you just tuning into the subject of food plots, let’s talk about what exactly a food plot is. You might be thinking, “Don’t you mean garden?” Well, the answer is both yes and no. Food plots are meant as a lure to draw in certain game. From squirrels to game birds, a well-made food plot (depending on what you’ve planted or allowed to grow there) can make trapping and hunting a far easier endeavor.

However, study up on your local baiting and luring regulations to stay inside the law and avoid a monstrously hefty fine or possible jail time. Finding these regulations is as simple as searching “baiting and luring regulations for (your home state).”

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There are three reasons that you would want a food plot.

  1. Luring – Luring simply means you either plant the seeds of plants and foliage that attract big and or small game, and in doing so you do away with the need to track in the future.
  2. Feeding — Feeding large game is a way to ensure that their numbers don’t drop suddenly.
  3. Wildlife watching — This is a great option if you have children or don’t have to worry about food, and simply want the enjoyment of wildlife.

Once you have the legal information on luring and/or feeding in your home state, then the next step is to get your food plot set up. Let’s line up the items that you will need.

  1. A clearing in a wooded area where large and/or small game are known to congregate.
  2. A strong or at least hole-free pair of working gloves. Get ready to get your hands dirty.
  3. Homemade compost. Foliage, potato peelings, orange peels, carrot tops, etc. (preferably non-acidic compost, as what you want to grow doesn’t like acidic soil).

Now you will need to clean up the area in which you plan to make your food patch. Make sure that your patch doesn’t have mushrooms growing in it, as this is a sign of acidic qualities.

Survival Hunting: How To Create A Food Plot -- For Free

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Our goal is to create a food patch with red clover and chicory — two plants that many animals, including deer, simply love.

Remove any dead foliage littering the ground, such as leaves and the like. Once you’ve given it a good once-over, it’s time to dawn our gloves. Anything that is currently growing in your patch outside of red clover or chicory should be removed by the roots to prevent them from coming back any sooner than normal. Once you are positive that all plants and weeds inside of your food plot are removed, we can move on to the fun part — turning the soil. To encourage natural growth of the plants we want such as chicory or red clover (or any variations) you will need to disturb the soil.

If you prefer to do this part with your hands, then all the power to you! Personally, I find that a garden hoe works best. Remember not to go too crazy and slap into the soil, as most of the dormant seeds of red clover and chicory won’t lie further than 3-4 inches below the surface. Once your entire plot is nice and fluffed up, you can add to the effectiveness of this free method by adding a small layer of your compost over the soil and mixing it in.

If you are one of the fortunate individuals who knows where a patch of red clover or chicory grow naturally, then it would be in your best interest to wait for it to go to seed, grab yourself a few plastic sandwich bags, and collect as much as you possibly can. Spread the seeds out as evenly as you can in your food plot; this gives your soil a little nudge in the right direction and can save you some wait time.

You will need to return often to ensure no invasive species of weeds has moved into your beloved food plot.

Once your food patch is working well, you can return and begin setting snares for your small game along the edge of your patch, or if you’re abiding by the regulations on luring and feeding in your state, you can wait for a buck to stumble into the wonderful meal you’ve laid out for him.

Enjoy your food patch!

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

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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!


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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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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The Right Way To Safely Can Non-Acidic Foods (And Avoid Deadly Botulism)

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The Right Way To Safely Can Non-Acidic Foods (And Avoid Deadly Botulism)

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Knowledge on canning non-acidic foods is invaluable to the modern homesteader. Knowing that these canned items will rest safely on the shelves of your storage room or pantry – and be edible when you need them – can give you peace of mind.

What Is Non-Acidic Food?

Non-acid foods do not contain acids like tomatoes do, and they are not canned with vinegar. As stated by the Ball website, non-acidic foods need to process at a temperature of 240 degrees Fahrenheit. This ensures that no fungus grows within the jars.

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Non-acidic foods also need to be pressure canned. Unlike non-acidic foods, acidic foods only need to be put into boiling water for a set amount of time. Examples of non-acidic foods include meats, soups and vegetables such as carrots, peas or asparagus.

Materials Needed to Can Non-Acidic Foods

Pressure canning non-acidic foods requires you to have a few items:

  • Pressure canner.
  • (Make sure there aren’t any indents, scratches, rust, etc., on the bands.)
  • (Make sure that there aren’t any scratches or tears on the seals.)
  • Clean glass jars.
  • Ladle.
  • Funnel.
  • Jar lifter (optional).
  • Head space measurer (optional).
  • Long thin spoon.
  • Recipe from a safe canning book such as a Ball book.

How to Pressure Can Non-Acidic Foods

1. The first step to pressure canning is ensuring that the glass jars, bands and lids are cleaned with hot soapy water. Also, make sure that they don’t have any nicks or cracks.

2. Put the jars in hot water until needed. This ensures that when you put the food into the jars and put the jars into the water, they don’t crack.

The Right Way To Safely Can Non-Acidic Foods (And Avoid Deadly Botulism)

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3. Get the pressure canner and add two to three inches of water into it. Bring and keep the water at a simmer until the cans are ready to be put in.

4. Prep the food that you are putting into the jars. This depends on what your recipe says.

5. Remove the jars from the hot water, and add the food. Make sure the correct headspace is achieved as in the recipe you are using. Take out air bubbles with the spoon or headspace tool.

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6. Clean the rims of the jars with a clean moist rag to wipe off all of the junk that could prevent a proper seal.

7. Add the seals and then the bands. Tighten until fingertip tight.

8. Put jars in the pressure canner.

9. Lock the pressure canner and open the vent pipe. Leave the heat on medium to high heat and let it blow steam for 10 minutes to ensure that there isn’t any air in the pressure canner.

10. Close the vent pipe by whatever means is appropriate for your own canner. Allow the pressure to build up to where you need it and then keep it at whatever your recipe calls for by adjusting the heat.

11. When it has finished after the amount of time needed for your recipe, take the jars out of the canner using the jar lifter, if you have one.

12. Put them on a towel or on the stove.

13. Leave them alone for a day to ensure proper sealing.

14. Lastly, check the seals to ensure that they have been properly sealed. You should be able to press on the top and it should not move up and down. Also, try to pry off the seal, gently. If you cannot pull it off and it does not move up or down, then you have a perfect seal. If there is a jar that did not seal, then put it in your fridge and eat it soon. As for the sealed jars, put them in a cool and dark place, label them, and leave them there for as long as they stay good (check the jars every year to ensure they are still sealed and suitable for consumption).

Why You Need to Be Careful

It is critical to ensure that the cans of food are properly pressure canned during the processing. Without proper sealing, mold can grow in it, and one could be Clostridium botulinum. This is a very dangerous mold that can paralyze and kill you. Following these directions will ensure that you have a safe and fruitful canning experience each time!

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