Saturday, July 16, 2005

Benny the sneaky dog

This morning, I found my neighbor's dog Benny asleep in the back of our "new" pickup truck. How he got up there with his short little legs, I have no clue. I tried to get Huck to jump up inside, but he has gotten too chubby and his legs are even longer than Benny's. What was funny was when Huck got near the truck, Benny would growl at him and chase him off. I guess he's already claimed it as his.

While waiting for the post office to open, I laid down to take a quick nap on the bed with Huck on the floor beside me. When I got up, I went and sat on the couch to put huck's collar on, and happened to look down. There in Huck's pillow lay our neighbor's dog! Such a cute little thing, looks like a Benji dog. Now, how he managed to sneak past the bathroom, past the kitchen, past all the dog and cat food and find huck's bed is beyond me. I always wondered how good a watch dog Huck was remembering the time our other dog Trudy woke us up barking when a cat slipped in through the window. Now I know! I called Nick and told him about it while he laughed with me.

Then I sat on the bed reading the mail. A little while later, I heard chomping sounds coming from the cat dish. I thought, that sounds too loud to be a cat. So, I slowly peeked around the corner and saw nothing. Then I went further into the bathroom and there was that silly dog again! I quickly showed him the way out even though I knew he'd be back.

One of the kids next across the street kicked it in anger after I asked him to leave our yard. They seem to think that our yard is the place to take what they want. Well, the piece wasn't quite right after that and it finally fell off.

Anyways, just as soon as Benny went out the door he immediately turned around to investigate what he smelled. It was Huck's dish with some leftover food in it that Huck didn't want. It was laying by the back door to take to the compost pile. I watched him through the door; he couldn't see me. He snuck his head in and took a slurp or two. Then he scurried back out the door.

On second thought, he decided he liked what he tasted and went back for seconds, doing the same thing each time, then thirds, until finally, he stood outside the door and stepped in with his two front paws and stretched as far as he could to finish the bowl. I was laughing at him. He heard me. He steps back and was all innocently looking at me. "What, I'm just standing outside the door?" he seemed to say. Muffling my laughter, he stretched back inside and licked the bowl clean. Oh well, he saved me a trip to the compost pile.

We've got the back door leading to the bathroom shut by the fan, but I'm sure if I went back in there, he'd be laying on my rug in the washroom.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The other garden

I've spoken briefly about the other garden that we have. It's at a friend of Noel's who lives not even 5 miles from here.

She approached us with the offer of letting us plant some more there and we jumped on it.

The plot is about 40-by-40-feet. So far we have planted there beets, cucumbers, peas, bush beans and corn.

We went by today to check on its progress as it's been about two weeks since we planted it.

The four rows of corn surprised me, they are doing pretty good. There are some bare spots in the rows where the seed didn't take, but all-in-all we should have a little bit of our very own corn this year.

The green beans are doing very well so far. We're going to have a goodly amount of beans this year, gods willing.

The peas there are also doing pretty good.

The cukes are coming in nicely and I can't wait to put away several jars of pickles this year! Yum.

The beets are not really up yet. I found a couple of sprouts that might be beets, but I suppose it's just a little too early to tell. The beets we planted here at the homestead are really just now showing so I should check them again next week.

But we still have about 10 feet on one end of the garden that I haven't planted yet. We have more pumpkin watermelon and beet seed. Plus quite a bit of seed potatoes. What do you all think we should plant in that last little bit of garden?

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Step three: Reduce your reliance upon utilities.

Written by Nick...

If you're ever going to be truly free, you have to reduce your reliance upon the utilities. You cannot be free if a third of your income or more goes toward keeping your lights on and house heated.

This step is where things get a little more "difficult." If you haven't made that most important step then you won't be able to do some of the things in this step. But read on ...

Electricity
First thing is to change how you light your house. If you must have electric lights, then switch to compact fluorescents. They last much longer than incandescents and they'll save you a couple bucks on your electric bill.

But here's where we get a little radical. If you can, throw out electric lights altogether. I don't suggest oil lamps because they have parts that can break or need to be replaced and you also have to purchase fuel. I suggest candles. They are the only form of lighting that you can fully make yourself if need be. We have not switched to candles yet, but it's on our to-do list.

Here's some more tips for lowering your electricity bill ...

Get rid of/turn off the air conditioner. Despite what you may think, you do not need an A/C unit. Once your body gets used to the natural weather you'll wonder why everyone else are such wimps that they can't stand it. Our bodies were meant to be in such weather. Dress appropriately for the weather, get yourself a good, old fashioned bandana and when you get too hot soak it in cool water and drape it around your neck.

Turn off the hot water heater. Chances are good that you don't need 40 or more gallons of water kept hot 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Water heaters waste tremendous amounts of energy. Noel and I now use our tea kettle to heat what little hot water we need. On average, we heat about two kettles a day ... that's it! Even better would be to purchase or construct yourself a solar water heater. You can buy one at WallyWorlds for about $6, or you can take an old milk jug and paint it black. Either way sit it out in the sun, and voila free hot water.

Look at all the appliances in your house which do not need to be on constantly. Like your computer, TV and stereo. If you have newer models and they are plugged in they are drawing energy. It may be only a small amount, but it adds up. And why should you pay to have the thing off? Get yourself some powerstrips with switches for those appliances and when you're not actually using them, turn the switch on the strip off. Every little bit counts.

Try to get rid of the fridge and freezers. It's hard to do, Noel and I are still researching and planning. But hopefully we'll be able to get rid of at least the freezer by next year maybe even the fridge too. We're looking at canning and drying our meats. There are other methods available (such as salt curing) but information on them is scarce and hard to come by. We'll write more when we go further down that road.

Don't use the clothes dryer. They also use tons of energy. Get yourself a clothes rack or string some line between two trees. Never pay for something you can get for free!

Gas
This might fall into either elec or gas depending but for us we were using gas to heat our home. Stop. Install a woodstove. Find a handful of folks that will let you cut wood on their property, and you'll have all the free heat you can use. The one tree we felled earlier will probably heat our home for at least two maybe even three months this coming winter. There is no reason to pay to heat your home.

Water
This one's a little harder than the rest, cause you just can't go without water. But there are things you can do that will cut, or if you're lucky eliminate, your water bill.

The biggest thing is to collect your rainwater. Get yourself some rain barrels and divert the chutes coming off your house into the barrels. You'll be surprised how much water you can store this way. Only one inch of rainfall on 1,000 square feet of roof will net you about 600 gallons of water! Those figures just blow me away! Why does anyone (outside a desert climate) pay for water to be piped to their home when hundreds upon thousands of gallons per year literally falls from the sky only to go straight down the sewer drain? We humans sure do have our priorities mixed up.

Bathe "birdbath-style." A regular tub bath can use 30 gallons or more of water, showers use 5-8 gallons per minute! So, get yourself a little four gallon galvanized tub or bucket, fill it with water and use a wash cloth to wet yourself, soap up, then use the cloth to rinse.

Sewage
I don't really think of sewage as a "utility," especially out here in the country where we have septic tanks instead of sewers. But it is still something that has to be dealt with, which you'll find out the first time your septic system backs up and you have to pay some fellow to come tear up your yard and carry off your "waste." Most people foolishly choose to flush away their "wastes" and try to forget that they ever existed in the first place.

But of course there is a much better way. If it's organic and it's a leftover the last thing that should be done is to flush it. It needs to be composted. Your garden will thank you by providing plants more healthy than anything you've probably seen.

Step 2B: Hunting

Written by Nick...

All you need to hunt is a New England Firearms Pardner in 20 gauge with a modified choke ($80). This one gun will fell anything in North America when used properly and responsibly.

Generally speaking, hunting is not quite as simple as fishing. It's also something I haven't done so much of. The only thing I've seriously hunted has been rabbits. They are easy enough. Any shotshell loaded with No. 6s or smaller will do fine for rabbits out of the gun I mentioned out to about 30-40 yards. Take your shotgun, go walking through the woods or prairie, stomping and kicking every little bit of brush or briars you find. Don't pass up even the smallest bits of cover. If you see a patch of grass and say "That's too small for rabbits, there won't be any in there" I guarantee that's where you'll find a rabbit. When you jump it and it's running off, aim a little bit ahead of it and pull that trigger. The best possible outcome is that the rabbit's head will catch the very edge of the shot pattern. That way you won't have any shot in your meat, which isn't all that pleasant.

You clean a rabbit almost like you do fileting a fish. Grab the fur about the middle of the body and pull with both hands, the fur will strip right off. Leave the fur on the head side, but take the fur all the way off the back-end and legs. You can leave the fur on the feet. Then all you have to do is filet the backstraps off each side of the spine just like a fish. Then cut off the hind legs, there's a joint in there that's just tendon and your knife will slice right through you just have to find it. Then cut the feet off the legs, a little more trick but the same idea. If the front legs aren't shot up too bad, you can get those too, but I usually just leave those for my cats or hound since there's not much meat on them anyway.

Right now we wrap our catches in freezer paper and stick them in the freezer. We are, however, working on alternative methods of storing meat because the next step in the path to self-reliance and independence is to reduce or eliminate using the utilities.

I will write more to this chapter when I have more experience hunting other game.

Step 2A: Fishing.

Fishing is the simplest and one of the most enjoyable ways to provide some of your own meat.

There is an amazing number of fishing rods and reels available on the market. Some costing hundreds of dollars. But you don't need to spend much money to catch fish. I personally own one Zebco 202 rod and reel which I purchased from Mal-Wart for $10 and a Zebco 33 rod and reel outfit, that was $20.

If you've never gone fishing before don't worry, it's easy. First of all, for your first times out, forget about lures altogether. If you're bank-fishing a public body of water, they are useless. Go back into the garden that you've dug and root around till you've got yourself a handful of nightcrawlers, then put them in one of the containers that you've saved instead of thrown away along with some moist dirt and head for the fishing hole. When you get to the water you have several options. I personally like to have one rod rigged to set the bait on the bottom and one rod rigged with a bobber to fish closer to the surface.

For the bottom rig, take the line from your reel and put on an egg sinker (about half an ounce, doesn't have to be real heavy just enough to get the bait to the bottom) then tie on an eye swivel. After the swivel, tie on a short leader of line (can be the same stuff on your reel) and then tie on the hook. For the bottom rig, I'm targeting catfish so I like the slightly bigger hooks labeled 2/0. Thread a worm on that hook and cast her out and let her sit till you get a bite, then reel it in. Catfish will usually hit the bait so hard and inhale it so deep that you won't even have to set the hook, just reel 'em on in.

For the surface rig, tie a snap swivel to the end of the line from your reel, then clip a bobber above the swivel (I prefer the ones with a little weight to them). You can experiment with how far up the line you put it, some days fish might want it shallower other days they might want it deeper. You can either put the hook right on the swivel, or you can use a leader. When you are speficially going for the more spooky panfish, a light-line leader (ie-4 pound test) might be an advantage because it's not as visible underwater as the heavier line.

Some folks also put a little weight on the line. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't; I don't think it really matters that much for this type of fishing. The size hook you want to use depends on what you're trying to catch. When I use the surface rig I'm usually going for panfish (bluegill, crappie), and use a very small hook, No. 6 or even No. 8. This rig will also catch bass.

For the surface rig, I don't put a whole worm on the hook. Just pinch off a bit and stick that on there. Panfish are a little more tricky to get on the hook though. Sometimes they'll hit the bait hard enough to hook themselves, and other times they'll steal that worm right off without you even knowing it. You just have to practice. Watch that bobber, most times you'll see it start moving differently when the fish are inspecting it. Just about as soon as it goes under you want to lightly set the hook, there's what you have to practice. You don't want to jerk it right out of their mouths, but you don't want to let them spit it back out either. The most important thing in reeling in the bass or panfish is to keep that line tight, if you let them get some slack in it they'll spit that hook out faster than anything and they'll be gone.

Using these methods, if they are there to catch, you will catch fish.

When you leave the lake you're only half-done though. You still need to get them cleaned and put away.

I prefer to filet most of my fish. This is not the easiest way to do it, but it is certainly the cleanest. Take the whole fish, it's sometimes easier if you have one of those boards with the clamp at one end, make a cut down the side of the fish behind the gills. Then make a cut along that same side of the spine down the length of the fish almost all the way to the tail. Then proceed to gently filet off the meat from the ribs. Then filet the skin off the meat. This way is nice because you don't have to gut or scale the fish and there will be no bones in the meat.

Catfish can be done the same way, but it is a good deal more difficult. For one thing those spines will leave inflict a nasty injury if they poke you, and it will take a while to heal (so I've heard, I've been blessed not to have been poked yet). Some folks use their pliers and cut the spines off, which I'll probably do this year too.

Another way to prepare fish is to scale and gut them and cut off their heads. This way is probably better for the smaller panfish because you won't waste any meat (as often happens with me when trying to filet the little buggers). And I'll probably be doing this more often this year, now that we have a place to grill stuff.

When you find the right places to go, you'll be rewarded with a catches like these.

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Fun at a friend's house

Well, I like I said earlier, Friday I went strawberry picking at the local strawberry farm and picked 6 pounds. I got to take home 2 pounds. Saturday I did some catch up work on the computer and rested. Saturday evening, my friend Joyce had a birthday party at her house. I made two batches of my favorite roll recipe and took that along.

The hosts, Joyce and Jim had BBQ and we were all asked to bring side dishes. It was good to visit and see everyone that I have not seen in a long time. We stayed about three hours and then went home. The next day, my neighbor and I went strawberry picking again. You would think I'd have so many strawberries in the freezer but we have ate alot of them, fresh and in shortcakes. Well, Nick hasn't eaten any fresh, but I had to have his helping too. :-)

Anyways, we were there for 2 1/2 hours. Her kids stayed mostly in the car and played by themselves. We each only did one row, but the rows were packed unlike before. I picked three buckets worth and it weighed 18 1/2 pounds. I couldn't believe it at first, but now my body is telling me otherwise. I am so sore!

My back was sore at first, but now it is just my sides. It hurts to laugh and bend up and down. And i didn't even bend down to pick. I sat on the ground and inched my way down the row. I still can't get over how much I picked though. Nick and I picked the last sunday, 12 pounds together. I came home with about 6 pounds. I can't wait to go again. Sunday night, we went to see grandma and grandpa. We took over some fresh strawberries, cool whip, and short cake stuff. It was delicious! We ate supper with them and had a wonderful visit!

Monday, Nick worked for the rancher man and I cleaned the whole house. It has even stayed clean and it's Wednesday! Woo hoo! Tuesday I worked on the garden, weeding it. The garden is coming along so nicely! I can't wait to harvest what we've planted!

Today, we are going to pick up our eggs, butter and milk from the local farmer where we buy it from. It is all so delicious! I may stop by in town and visit my friend.

Until next week...

Saturday, June 4, 2005

The great adventures of Cider and Huck

The other day while walking Huck and Cider we stopped by a creek. I wanted Huck to get his hot paws wet and cool off. So down in the ditch he went across the creek. At first, he was jumping around frantically. Upon seeing him, Cider thought oh wow! Playtime! So he jumps in and starts splashing around. Huck is thinking, what are you doing? I'm here drowning and you are getting me more wet! The water was not very deep by the way, but when you have short little stubby legs... then all of a sudden huck stops jumping and splashing and it seems he is enjoying the moment. it lasted only a short time before he hopped out.

Friday, we went berry picking. We being my neighbor, her kids and me. I picked 6 pounds. It was fun and the weather was windy and nice. Today I am going to make some rolls to take to a friends house for dinner. Sunday we plan to go see nick's grandparents and bring along some strawberry shortcake stuff. I'm not sure what Monday holds for us, but I will write on Tuesday and tell of my weekend.

Oh, I got my neighbor started on fly lady stuff. She and I have been helping one another with our houses. She, Ginny, is working on the basics of fly lady before jumping into it all. She likes the ideas and gets excited to tell me about what she has done for the day. Her daughter will come over and write down what each of us has done for the day and compare her notes. It has been fun. This month we are in a new zone and having fun "competing" and getting all our cleaning done. For those of you who are unfamiliar with fly lady. Go to: www.flylady.net

Well, I've got to go make dinner... until next time...

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

More strawberries, Cider stories and Red clover

Last weekend, I had a very relaxing time. Saturday was my day of rest. Although, I still did my usual cleaning and preparation of meals. I just didn't tackle any new projects. Sunday, instead of sleeping in, we got up early and with my neighbor went and picked at the strawberry patch. Actually, she invited me along, but when nick and I found out, we opted to take our car. She was leaving her kids at home this time.

We got there right at 8 and picked for an hour and a half. Nick and I picked two buckets each, which equaled about 12 pounds. We bought one bucket and with the others, the owner has this deal where if you pick for them, they will give you back a 1/3 of what you pick. So, we ended up with still alot of strawberries. Their prices are reasonable too. $1.00 a pound if you pick.

We wanted to save our money yet still enjoy the strawberries. Between the strawberries from the Amish farm, Joyce's and the strawberry patch, you'd think we'd have alot of strawberries, but our weakness is strawberry shortcake. We have eaten alot of them up! But we decided to save the rest which is about 3 gallon sized freezer bags and save for a rainy day, maybe even make some strawberry jam out of them or save for smoothies.

Sunday after we got back and I processed them for the freezer, I washed laundry and hung it up to dry on the clothesline. Worked in the garden a bit even picked some mulberries. I've got almost a gallon picked. Cleaned the kitchen up, vacuumed the carpeted rooms, and took Huck on his daily walk.

Sometimes our neighbors dog, Cider goes along. That is always a treat. He is so funny, a yellow lab, he runs all over the place so full of energy. The other day, Huck and I were walking back from our walk and there was Huck so tired, putting one foot in front of the other. He was so tired and hot, and all of a sudden here comes Cider, just loping along, not panting, not tired, as if he was teasing Huck for being so slow. Huck stopped, looked back at me, then ahead to Cider, I'm sure he was thinking that it wasn't fair he had such shorter legs. I just started cracking up thinking what was going through Huck's mind!

Later that evening, my friend and neighbor, Ginny went red clover picking with me. I had wanted to get more and glad I did, because the place where I go they had mowed down! But there was still plenty to be picked! I have been picking red clover the last few weeks and drying them. Red clover is best when made as an infusion. An infusion is where you take the herb you are using and steep it in boiling water for several hours. It is much more nutritious than just making tea out of it.

Monday, Nick and I just enjoyed ourselves relaxing. I spent time cross-stitching, reading, relaxing in the shade outside. We talked outside about our plans for the house, the yard, and garden. We went to Maggie's in the evening to work on the rest of the rows in the garden. I picked red clover while I was there since we have only one hoe. The vegetables are coming up so nicely, corn, green beans, beets, peas, cukes. We stayed and visited awhile with Maggie then headed home.

What a wonderful weekend it was!

Saturday, May 28, 2005

strawberry picking is fun!

Last Monday, Nick and I went out to see my "Aunt" and "Uncle" in Rockville. Joyce invited us out to pick strawberries and to visit my cousin, Sandy who was in town. We had a good time. We stamped some cards and visited. The weather was warm. Nick even managed to get sunburn on his arms. I am suprised I didn't, since I wasn't even wearing anything to cover my neck. I just wore a baseball cap. I picked a lot of strawberries, but Joyce, Nick and Sandy all came out and helped too. I have several containers in the freezer waiting to be made into something, whether it be strawberry shortcake or strawberry jam. I am thankful they let me come out and pick! Thanks, Joyce and Duane!

Friday, May 20, 2005

Don't Throw Away! Freecycle it.

Today a lady came by and picked up my leftover garage sale items. I am a member of a yahoo group called Freecycle. It is an email list where people give away things that they no longer need for free. It saved me a trip into town to the thrift store. They have groups all over the U.S. You can either offer an item out or put a wanted ad in. The main website is: www.freecycle.org to search for your area.


Chamomile

Yesterday while walking to the post office I could smell a fragrance coming from these tiny flower buds that smelled so familiar to me only I couldn't think of what it was. It smelled so good! Well, I thought about it all day and still couldn't think of where I smelled it before, only that it was so comforting. So, when I walked to the post office again today I reached down and gathered some up. Oh, the scent!!

I took the bunch in and asked the postmaster my friend if she knew what it was. She knew right away, Chamomile! That's it! I love chamomile tea! So, on my way home I picked some and planted it in a pot. I hope it grows well as I would love to have chamomile tea whenever I want. Chamomile spreads like mint so hopefully by next year I'll have a big stash. I don't know if it's too late or not for this year, but next year for sure I want to have a bigger herb garden and have culinary, medicinal and aromatic herbs. A few ideas to grow them would be to get an old wagon wheel and plant each herb in a different spoke. Or to get an old ladder and in between each rung have a different herb. Oh, the joys of planning!

A website I found

http://chamomiletimes.com/

Monday, May 16, 2005

The homesteader's most valuable resource...

It doesn't matter if you are the poorest SOB on the face of the planet, if you are a homesteader there is one thing that you have more of than you could ever use up.

Time.

We live in an age where folks think that everything should've been done yesterday. And I tell you what, that is probably the hardest attitude that I'm trying to overcome.

There are so many things that I want to do to our homestead, and I want them done now! But it is just not meant to be that way. I don't have the funds (or the desire) necessary to live that kind of life.

When weighing options for getting work done here so far, I've always been presented with two basic options. The "easy" way and the "hard" way.

Obviously the easy way entails paying someone else to do the work; whether paying for labor or renting equipment to use myself. But there's that key word -- "paying."

The hard way always means doing the work myself, often with materials scavenged from somewhere else. Oh, and it almost always means lots of time.

Thankfully, I rarely have money to pay anyone to do my work for me. And I say thankfully because it really is much more fulfilling to do the work yourself. Because I have all the time in the world.

Yes, I do have a day job. But my evenings are all mine, along with all day Sunday and half-days on Saturdays and Mondays.

Fencing in my yard is the perfect example. I'll be scrounging the wood from old pallets and doing all the labor myself. Sure I won't be able to fence in my entire yard in a week's time, but if it takes me half a year to finish, so what? Yes, it's hard as hell to take the boards off pallets; especially the one's I've been getting lately, seems whoever put them together thought it'd be a good idea to put four nails in each place where wood touches wood. But I've got all the time in the world. My yard's not going anywhere, and neither am I.

When it's done, I'll have done it myself and at no cost to me.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Stainless steel cleaner and dish soap

I went to Walmart the other day looking for a good all purpose cleaner. There was a specific one I was looking for that I had seen at Woods but they did not carry it. So, I began looking trying to find the right one. Just when I had about given up, (for there were too many to pick from) I glanced down and saw one called Orange Clean. It seems a long time ago I used one with a similar name to clean wood surfaces and I loved the way it worked. So I picked it up, bought it of course, and took it home. I couldn't wait to try it out. The label said it was for tubs, sinks, countertops, ovens, and more. It is the best all purpose cleaner I have used. I used to buy 409, but this is way better and it smells nice when you are cleaning. The best thing is that when I sprayed it into my stainless steel sink, it made the sink shine so beautifully and it has stayed shiny too.

Update 11/14/2012- Well, I can no longer find this cleaner anymore. At least not locally. So, I ordered a new bottle of kitchen cleaner from Nutri-Life which my neighbor sells. I am excited to try it. I use the Dish Drops for my dishes and love the way it cleans. Just a few drops is all that is needed to create mounds of suds and my dishes sparkle when I'm done. I love both the light fragrances, Citrus and Green Herb. I noticed that the kitchen spray is the same Citrus scent and can't wait to try it. I should get the bottle next week. I don't care for overpowering scents since I have sensitivity issues with chemicals.

One bottle of Dish Drops lasts me a long time. It cost me less than $5 and since I place my order with my neighbor I get free shipping. I think that's a pretty good deal!

I'll be sure to post about my review of the new kitchen spray once I get the chance to use it! And I've been curious to know just how long a bottle of Dish Drops last, so I'll make a note of it when I open the bottle and see.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Pallets: A homesteader's best friend...

Businesses usually have to pay someone to haul away their old pallets. That means that they are ripe for the homesteader's picking! And the potential uses for them are without number.

I've been getting pallets from the newspaper that I work for. Tonight I put three full-size pallets together along with one half-pallet to form a compost bin.

What I did was simple. I took the slats off the back of the pallets, stood them on their ends and nailed them in place. The half-pallet simply slides in the front, which will allow us to remove it when we want to get the finished compost out.

But that's not by far the only thing you can do with them.

You can make fences out of them. Which will be one of the projects that we tackle in the near future.

You can construct sheds and woodsheds.

Anything you can imagine building with wood can probably be made out of pallets. And it'll be one heck of a lot cheaper than buying store bought lumber -- by which I mean free!

Update: It is now 2012 and the pallet compost bin we made in 2005 is still standing. Well, sort of, the neighbor dogs torn down the front piece, but that's because we weren't living on the property for several years. The fact that what remains it's still there sturdy as ever though makes me love pallets!

Nick has access to pallets now with his job and I'm excited to rekindle my love for pallets and build many things next year with them! :-)

Thursday, May 12, 2005

First official city wide garage sale

We had our first official city wide garage sale last week. The sale has been going on for the past few years, but we had never been a part of it. Someone asked me if it was worth it and if I planned to do it again next year. My answer was that I had this sale to rid myself of clutter I've accumulated over the past few years and that I hoped to not get myself in the same mess again.

Hopefully, by this time next year, I do not have any junk to get rid of because I do not have any junk, but if I slip into my old ways and gather more junk, then yes, I will be having a sale again. Perhaps though if I don't have any junk to sell, then I can bake cookies or sell some crafty things. I had wanted to do that last week but ran out of time to prepare. I wanted to make sure that I had everything set out to sell way ahead of time.

The sale went pretty good. I was suprised with the number of people that came on Thursday. The nearby city was having their city wide sale on Saturday so I knew that it would be pretty slow then. but had no idea how slow. Friday slowed down from Thursday's rush and Saturday was so boring! I had like three people come the whole day until 2. I should have stayed open until 6 or 7 but by 2, I was exhausted. It is surprising how tiring it can be to sit and wait for someone plus the wind was blowing so hard that every few minutes I was jumping up and picking up items off the ground.

I think what I'll do next year, (here I go again, this is assuming I have stuff) is set out items on Thursday and tell people as they come that I'll be putting out more stuff each day. Then when Friday starts, I'll box out what didn't sell on Thursday and mark it way down and put out Friday's stuff and so forth. I had several people come back each day to see if I had put out more stuff. Also what I did was when it got slow, I'd run back inside and find more stuff to get rid of. There were several items I kept holding on to, but knew i'd never use them. I ended up selling those first.

It feels good to get rid of junk in my life. I feel so free! Now, if I can just organize the house better...

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Making food and firewood...

Went ahead and planted the garden this morning. It's not quite as big as I wanted to have, but I was running out of time (I should've started much earlier) and just got plain tired of digging. Tried to use a borrowed tiller, but the sod has been in place so long that the tiller didn't do a thing.

We've got a friend who is letting plant more stuff at her place, so I don't need a big garden here. Even though I wanted to. But that's okay, better to start off small, I'll work into more garden here next year.

The next step that I'll be writing about is reducing our reliance upon utilities. Part of doing that is using a woodstove for heat. I'll talk more about it later, but we cut down a couple of ash trees so I wanted to write about that now.

There were several small ones coming up out of an old concrete foundation that were blocking the sun to my neighbor's garden and he'd asked if could cut them down. I'll be wanting to put in a shed on top of that pad sometime soon, so I said yes. While I was helping him knock those out, I pointed out the big ash tree that was blocking the sun to my garden and asked if he'd help me cut that one down someday. He said sure, why not do it now? I said, okay. So we cut that one down too.

I was surprised that it came down so easy. I was sure we'd have to knock out some of the upper branches before bringing the whole thing down. But my neighbor was sure we could get it to land right, so we just went at it.

There are several other trees that we can cut down when the time comes.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Once-A-Month Grocery Shopping



Once-A-Month Grocery Shopping

Excerpt:
"I have discovered that grocery shopping once a month is one major way of saving money. Particularly in combination with other activities, monthly shopping can save a heap of money.

This was a gradual process for me. When I decided to make the move, I was shopping weekly because I had a very small freezer. Now I have a good-sized chest freezer. I started by dropping back to visiting the supermarket once every two weeks. Even though I allowed a budget of double what I had previously spent each week, I found that I seldom needed to spend that much. Shopping less often certainly reduced the impulse purchases. It seemed relatively easy to work out how much of each item I needed to last me two weeks. Some things were already packaged in quantities that would last me longer so I wasn't buying every item each shopping trip."


This is where we're at now. We were going to the supermarket at least once a week, usually two or three times a week. When we moved to the homestead, we immediately went to shopping once every two weeks.

And now we're taking the next step. Our next shopping day is one week from tomorrow. On that day, we will buy three weeks of groceries. Then two weeks from that day we will purchase another three weeks of groceries. That way, we'll have a one month supply at that point.

I figured it would be easier on the wallet to transition to once-a-month shopping in two steps instead of one big step.

P.S. - The Dollar Stretcher is a good online zine, with lots of tips for saving money. Some things of their's I like, others not so much; but check it out while you're there.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Mixes in a jar. Best brownie recipe and more

Nick writes: In step one, we discussed cancelling the trash service. One of the things that change when you cancel the trash service is that you learn to reuse most of the items you used to throw away. Well my wife, Noel, has taken this to heart by reusing mayonnaise-type jars to store dry mixes in. Dry mixes are good things in and of themselves as well. So I'll let her tell you all about it! So without further ado, I introduce my wonderful wife, Noel

For those who like the conveniences of mixes like I do, don't think that you can't have them if you buy in bulk or stop buying prepackaged foods. The ideas for making your own mixes are unlimited. This weekend, I started putting away some dry mixes. It was just a start, but it got my juices flowing on all the kinds of things I could make ahead of time. I like to use mayonnaise jars or canning jars because they are easy to store and you can see at a glance what is inside. One of the things I made was some pudding mixes. Now when I want to make it all I need to do is just add the wet ingredients like milk or eggs. I made several jars up of pancake mix. Same thing for them. I just measured out the flour, sugar... I dumped it all in a jar. I figured when I get ready to make it that I'll just dump it in a bowl and mix it together then, before adding the wet ingredients. I made up several pancake mixes in just a few minutes. Other things I plan to make mixes of are: beverage mixes such as cocoa, spiced tea, flavored coffee, and also cake, cookie, and brownie mixes. For these I layer them in nicely so that if I need a quick gift for giving, it's all ready. There is also spaghetti, chili, and taco seasonings. The possibilities are just endless! What I like to do is either write on the jar what to add to each jar and just make refills using the same jar or attach a paper recipe to each jar with instructions on how to make.

My favorite link to share on making your own mixes
is here.

My favorite brownie mix can be found here.

A simple google search of "make your own mixes" brings up plenty of results. Have fun looking!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Camp fires and barn owls...

We got around to putting some old bricks in a circle for a fire ring last night.  So we  gathered up some wood and got ourselves a little fire going.

It was nice. The weather yesterday was much cooler than it had been, so the fire felt good. We sat there till dark enjoying the fire.

After awhile, we heard some owls off in the distance. You'd hear one of them screech, then the other would make a sharp staccato chirping noise. Well soon they were flying right over head. You could just make out their white underbellies and wings in the darkness. Silently flapping their way about.

Sreeeeeeech then chirp chirp chirp chirp.

I don't know if they were mating or fighting or what, but it was neat to watch.

Saturday, April 9, 2005

More thoughts on self-reliance. Television...

After I finished writing "The first step," I started thinking that maybe I should've made cancelling television service the first step.

So I've been pondering that this afternoon and I've decided that cancelling television service isn't really a step on the path. Because, I believe, if you are still paying someone to pump that crap into your home, you are not ready to even think about the first step.

Granted, there are a few programs on that I like to watch. But they become fewer and fewer each year, and even the ones I do enjoy are just about ruined by the commercials. And I sure will not pay for that when I can get it for free.

If you have to have television, get an antenna. You'd be surprised how good the reception is. I live more than 60 miles from the nearest stations and many times I get them clearer off the air than when I had cable.

The path to self-reliance. Step 2: Make your own food.

Step two on the path to self-reliance and independence is making your own food. This step is actually four-fold.

If you've taken step one, you know how difficult that step is to take when you're purchasing your food from the grocery store. By nature, almost everything in that store has to come prepackaged. And it is generally packed in small quantities. And what you have left are a lot of empty packages that you have to do something with.

The solution is simple: Stop buying your food from the grocery store!

Here are the four folds of this step: Veggies, bread, meats and what I refer to as the dairy category (milk, eggs and butter).

First off, make a garden. If you've got any amount of dirt that you can take a shovel to and dig up for a garden, do it. It doesn't matter if it's 5-feet-by-5-feet or an acre, just do it (but smaller is better your first time). You don't need a tiller, get yourself a shovel, a digging fork, a hoe and a garden rake (not a lawn rake). And buy the best you can afford (Lehman's sells some very good garden tools for not much). If you don't have the land, you have two options. Get a handful of those large plant pots and grow something in them. Or you can work for one of your local market gardeners in exchange for fresh produce. Noel and I do all three!

Secondly, learn to bake. The slabs of white glue they sell in the stores barely qualifies as bread anyway, and the stuff you'll make will be a thousand times more healthy (not to mention more tasty). You can buy wheat berries (unground wheat will need a grinder, we were blessed to find a small one at the Salvation Army for a few bucks but will soon be getting a bigger one) by the bucket for a small amount of money and they will keep for a very long time if stored properly. There is nothing better than coming home to the smell of Noel's fresh homemade bread. And you can make anything your heart desires. Noel has recently made home-made cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, hotdog and hamburger buns and even her own pita bread.

Third, get yourself a hunting and fishing license along with a $10 fishing pole and reel and a $80 20 gauge shotgun and go fishing and hunting.

Some folks will wonder why I put the hunting/fishing step before owning livestock. The answer is simple. Folks who have not made the most important step on the path to independence may not be able to keep livestock, but they can still go hunting and fishing.

Lastly, dairy. I don't advocate someone who has never owned livestock to just run out and purchase some. Start out by finding someone who sells their surplus dairy stuff. You haven't tasted milk, butter or eggs till you've had them fresh from the farm. Get to know the folks that you buy from, they'll teach you more than any book ever will. And we'll tackle owning livestock in a future step down our path.

The path to self-reliance. Step 1: Cancel the trash service.

This is a guest post written by Bear.

Step one on the path to self-reliance and independence is cancelling the trash service.

If you continue using a garbage collection service, it will be difficult for you to realize the impact of what you are throwing away.

My entire way of thinking changed when I cancelled the trash pickup. Because suddenly I had to deal with any garbage that my wife and I produced. The nearest landfill is about 60 miles away and we currently do not have a working pickup truck, so hauling our own trash off was not an option (not that we wanted to do that anyway).

Do a simple excercise yourself, the next time you go grocery shopping. When you're at the register, look at all the food you've purchased, and see what kind of packaging your items are in. Then think about how much extra you're paying to buy those foods in their fancy packages. Now think about how you're going to go home, use the product, and then pay someone else to haul the package away. You're paying for the packaging, only to turn around and pay someone else to discard it! To me, that is an extraordinarily stupid way to spend my hard-earned money.

The first thing that will change is that, unless there is no alternative which is rare, you will not purchase anything in disposable packaging or that was meant to be used once then thrown out.

The second thing that will change is that if an item can be used again in any manner, it does.

The third thing that will change is that you will realize that all that left-over food stuff that you've been throwing away is a valuable resource that can be composted into the best possible thing you can put on your garden.

We're still working on this ourselves. But we've reduced our garbage to almost nil.

We've managed to do this because we have quit buying almost any prepackaged goods. We are blessed to have a bulk foods store in our county where we can go get most of our dry food stuffs in large quantities with little packaging, or with packaging we can bring back and get refilled.

Since we did not have a garden last year we still have empty vegetable cans and some plastic containers (ketchup bottles, etc) that we have to deal with. These we will be saving in bins, then taking to the recycle center when the bins are full. And this year, we will hopefully be able to put away all of the vegetables and things we'll need so we won't have to buy those items from the store any more either.

The path to self-reliance

The most important step on the path to self-reliance and independence is getting out of the city.

I say that this is the most important step for many reasons. Things are simply cheaper in the country. There aren't so many taxes. Utilities just aren't as expensive, generally speaking anyway.

I don't number this step because, while it is the most important, some folks just won't be able to do it right away, if ever. And there are steps that you can take while still in the city.

Plus, when you live out in the country and it's a five mile trip to get into town, you think twice before going to eat out or to see a movie (especially with gas prices going up like they are).

The second most important step is to get to know your neighbors. This applies in the city too, but especially in the country. Through our neighbors we have learned quite a bit. We found our source for eggs, milk and butter through one of our neighbors. Our neighbors have also helped us out a few times when we forgot something or just needed a hand. And we return the favors too, that's what neighbors are for.

Old Shale Scarf and fabric

I bought some yarn this week but could not bring myself to start another project until I finished at least one of my current WIP's. So, ...