Showing posts from 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 ca…

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…

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 ...

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…

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 th…

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 ro…

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 …

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 T…

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, b…

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!

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: to search for your area.


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 …

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.


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…

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 k…

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 20…

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 t…

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…

Once-A-Month Grocery Shopping

Once-A-Month Grocery Shopping

"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 …

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 …

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.

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). …

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. …

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 w…