Showing posts with label homestead. Show all posts
Showing posts with label homestead. Show all posts

Saturday, July 22, 2017

10 Reasons You Should Be Gardening!


One of the most important skills to learn is gardening. The ability to grow your own food and maintain your own sustainability is a key point in homesteading and prepping. While you may not be able to produce all your own food, you have the capability to produce a lot of it. You can also garden just for pleasure. You can also garden for your long term food storage needs by canning, freezing, and drying your produce.

There are many ways to garden. No matter what method of gardening you choose, the results are the same. With a little hard work, weed control, and commitment, you will have produced your own food and gained a skill that, sadly, most people do not have.

10 Reasons You Should Be Gardening:

1. You produce your own food! This is the best thing about gardening. You can walk out to your garden and pick what you want to eat with your supper or as your supper. Eating what you produce is a great feeling. Your hard work produced food to provide for you, your family, and possibly neighbors and friends!

2. Gardening can be therapeutic. When you are feeling a little down, tending to the plants and watching things grow can lift your spirits. When you are feeling a bit frustrated or angry, pulling weeds can be a great outlet. If you are feeling pretty happy, the garden can keep lifting your spirits.

3. Gardening can decrease stress levels. See number #2. However, pulling weeds can be the best therapy and keep you from possibly hurting someone other than the weeds. And trust me, the weeds can handle it!

4. It's a skill that needs to be learned and passed on. Many people do not know how to garden. They will remember that their parents or grandparents gardened, but they had no interest themselves in learning. We need to be teaching and encouraging the next generation to be growing their own in some way or form. Whether it is growing food in containers on an apartment balcony, a community lot, raised beds, or in the ground, gardening skills need to be taught and passed on.


5. You eat healthier. There isn't many doctors, nutritionists, or diet gurus who will tell you not to eat your vegetables and fruits. Adding vegetables and fruits that are homegrown to your meals will help you be healthier and feel better too.

6. You will lose weight and burn calories pulling weeds and tending plants. Gardening has been proven to burn calories and even help lose weight with the exercise you get tending the garden.


7. Family and couples can work together. My kids are often out in the garden working with me. This year they did a lot of planting of seeds, onions, and potatoes. We worked on planting in straight rows, seed spacing, and identifying plants. They help with weeding and harvesting. They also love to eat what comes out of the garden. Watering the garden has become a couples activity with Rob doing a lot of the watering including setting the sprinkler and coming up with new watering set-ups. You can involve your kids and your spouse if you want to. (I also understand wanting some "alone" time in the garden too!)

8. You can have a chemical free, organic garden. We try very hard to not have chemicals in the garden. If you want a chemical free, organic, non-GMO garden, you can have that. You get to control what is planted, what is sprayed, how to control the pests, and other inputs. Basically, it is yours to do with how you want!

9. You can save money at the grocery store. Vegetables and fruits rarely taste or look as good as the ones I grow. Nothing beats a homegrown tomato! Eating fresh vegetables from the garden and preserving the extra bounty will save you a fair amount of money on your grocery bill in the summer and the winter.

Learning a new way to stake tomatoes this year

10. You can experiment and learn new things while gardening. You will learn when you planted way too much zucchini and even your neighbors hide from you to avoid getting one! You will learn that you should only plant vegetables your family will eat and you will freeze/can. You will learn to try something new every year and see how it does. You can experiment with different types of tomatoes, peppers, and squashes. The garden is one big science experiment sometimes and, even though you might depend on what you produce, you can always try new things and change what you want to do.


Gardening is a skill you should be learning. It has many benefits and perks as you can read. I would encourage everyone to do it!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, May 8, 2017

Ten Great Mother's Day Gift Ideas for the Prepping and Homesteading Moms In Your Life!


Mother's Day is coming up soon! I know some of you may have had your gift picked out weeks ago, but some of us have not! Some of you may not exchange gifts and that is totally cool and wise too!

I was surfing Amazon today wondering what they recommend for Mother's Day. Usually, I get a pretty good laugh at some of their suggestions. However, I like some of what I am seeing this year. I thought I would make a list for you to find something practical and perfect for that special mom in your life!

(Yes, this article contains affiliate links. You are under no obligation to buy, but the commission I earn helps my family and homestead out! Thanks!)

Here are ten great ideas for that prepping and homesteading mom in your life:

1. A Good Garden Hose. There is definitely a difference between a regular garden hose and a GOOD garden hose. A GOOD Garden Hose is one that doesn't kink, is at least 100 feet long, stays soft and flexible, and has good ends that don't smash easily. I really like what I am reading about this hose!

2. Cast Iron Skillet. I am huge believer in using cast iron skillets. I like that they can be used on the cooktop, on the grill, and over the campfire. I think every household needs one, especially mom! While you are it, get one of these hot handle holders! They will save your hands!

3. Garden Tool Kit. I love a good garden tool kit. Every 3-4 years, I buy myself a new set because the handles get worn out or the tools get cracked or bent. This set would be a good present for your favorite gardener!

4. A Set of Mixing Bowls. I like a good set of mixing bowls especially if they are stainless steel and one of the bowls can hold at least 12 cups for canning recipes. I have a good set of stainless steel mixing bowls, but I think these bowls would be a great gift for any mom.

5. A Battery Powered Drill. Every woman and household should have a drill with drill bits and screw driving bits. I have a Black and Decker drill that works great. This drill also comes with a project kit which would be great around the house and homestead!

6. A Stepladder. Most of us women are not usually tall enough to fix the things that need to be fixed. I have found a stepladder to be indispensable! I am only 5'5" so I always need a step stool or chair to reach what I need. This stepladder would be much safer than a chair for that special mom in your life!

7. Work and Garden Gloves. I was not a gloves type of person until a few years ago. I got really tired of cleaning up cuts and picking thorns out of my hands. I do not use the same gloves for work projects and for gardening. My favorite work gloves are these Ansell gloves that Rob turned me onto. I love these gardening gloves from G & F. They are nitrile coated on the inside to get a good grip on those weeds!

8. Canning Set. I love my Ball canning set that I got a few years ago. It makes my canning go so much easier! Even if that mom in your life is an experienced canner, she might appreciate a new set. Sometimes we have problems letting go of our old, overused things! Also, be a good one. Give her some new jars too!

9. Aprons. Seriously. I get so tired of getting stains out of my clothes that an apron would have prevented, especially during canning season! Having extra pockets are handy too when collecting eggs, seeing what is ready in the garden, and/or holding screws and tools. Aprons are awesome!

10. Sewing machine. Every good homesteader and prepper knows that eventually they will have to fix something that will take more than a few quick stitches. Also being able to make your own things is pretty cool. That is why I recommend a sewing machine. I think everyone needs to learn to sew by hand and by machine.

What would you add to this list? What would you like to get for Mother's Day or Father's Day?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Friday, April 28, 2017

Monthly Update From The Homestead - April Edition


How has your April been for you? Fairly cool and rainy with rare times of sunny and warm? That is what we had, have, and are currently experiencing. They are talking some snow on Sunday at the time of this writing. What the ?!?!?!

I am ready for May and much warmer temperatures to come. I want to get my garden planted and put some pretty flowers in the planters. I want to sit outside with a cold drink and enjoy the evenings on the porch. However, Mother Nature needs to get over herself and soon.

Speaking of the garden, what have you planted or are planting? As of right now, I have nothing planted. The ground temperatures have been a little chilly for me to be comfortable planting much. Last month I said I wanted to get the potatoes planted, but I am glad I didn't. I have a feeling we would be dealing with them rotting in the ground due to all the rain we have had. I have had that happen a few years and that doesn't sit well with me. I hate wasting that effort.

I also did not get the tomatoes or peppers started. This month was pretty busy with some illness and has been slipping right past me. I have a feeling I wouldn't have had a good grow rate anyway unless I purchased artificial lighting.

I do know what I am planting in the garden this year though: tomatoes, bell peppers, anaheim peppers, potatoes, onions, shallots, garlic (may wait until fall?), green beans, peas, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, and possibly carrots. I might add to that list, but those are the main things being planted. I also hope to transplant the strawberries soon and add 50 more strawberry plants. We want a good size patch of those.

I am learning a few new gardening things. Wherever I plant onions, I will need to plan on that being a two year spot. All the onions that did not come up last summer are coming up now. I do enjoy having green onions at my disposal. I also learned that some kale varieties are biennial and I could get seed this year. Since I didn't pull all the plants last year, I have kale already growing in my garden this Spring.

The rhubarb is up and ready for its first picking. I will be making a cake and a batch of jam out of this first picking. I can't wait! Our jam coffers are starting to run a little low.

I hope to order and pick up the new chicks in the next week or two. We have decided on 25 layers and 25 meat birds. The coop hasn't been built yet, but Rob has put in some very hard work prepping the cement pad that the coop will be built on. We have decided how we are building it and how the inside will look. It will be nothing fancy, but will be quite serviceable.

I really would like to get some ducks and a few turkeys too. Somehow, I am not sure that will happen this year. I really want to grow more of our own meat, but I am learning that baby steps are a good thing. Meat birds this year and maybe more next year? I wouldn't mind a couple of pigs either!

Otherwise, I have been doing the same things as I have been all winter. Fixing what I can, decluttering and selling what I can, and getting ready for whatever comes. Selling books and other things has been really slow lately. Spring is not usually a good selling time for me, but I usually have hope it will be better next month.

We did do our first mowing of the year. This is not my favorite job, but the grass needed to be leveled off. We also picked up a lot of branches and sticks this year. The winter was not kind to our trees. A good deal of them need to be cut down and hauled away. Of course, I will try to plant new ones or let a sucker continue to grow in its place. The yard clean up seems to be more a job every year.

What have you been up to this April? I hope it was more productive than mine!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Friday, March 31, 2017

Monthly Update From The Homestead - March Edition (It's Spring!)


Why not write the March Update From The Homestead on the last day of the month? At least it is in March! That has been how fast this month has gone and I really haven't had a lot to talk about. 

I put off the writing of this because almost nothing has happened in the month of March on the homestead. The weather has been snow, wet, rain, wet, a few days of sun, and more days of clouds. And that is what I can remember...

I am looking at plans for the chicken coop. We are probably getting twenty layers this Spring. I think I have it narrowed down to what I want to built and still stay simple, but we do have to built it first. We will use what we have on hand, but I know we will have to buy materials. I know the coop will have to be more practical than cute which suits me fine. Do you have a coop design you love? Share a picture or a link to what coop you like!

I have been planning my garden too. I will probably put the garlic in a long planters or along the very edge of the garden next week. I haven't used up all the garlic from last year so I will probably use that to start the new batch. I am also going to start at least my tomatoes next week and bring them to work to grow. Yes, where I work is that relaxed and they have much, much better southern facing windows to grow things. I think I am going to start 30 tomato plants and see how they do. I know not all of them will live, but I kind of hope they do.

I also need to move the strawberries. I don't want to do it right now, but they really need to be moved to the edge of the garden. They were on the edge before we expanded. I know now is not a good time, but they really have to be moved!

I also have my potatoes ready to go to be planted. They are from last year and have sprouted already. They are sitting on the front porch to slow their growing. And maybe, just maybe, I will get them planted on Good Friday. Around here, a lot of people plant their potatoes on Good Friday. You can find a good explanation on why that written a year ago here. I don't usually plant on this date when it is in March, but by the middle of April, hopefully we are past most of the dangers of frost.

I sit on the line of 4B/5A planting zone so I generally use caution and plant according to Zone 4. Most of my garden will not go until May sometime. I am going to try to plant radishes, spinach, and lettuce early. I really want the garden tilled first so we need to wait until that is suitable for tilling first. Rob may have found a tiller for his older lawn tractor. If he can get that working, that will be groovy. Otherwise, we can rent a tiller too.

I know this sounds like a lot of planning and nothing happening, but that is the reality of life right now. I don't really even feel like a homesteader right now. I won't have an active garden for at least a month, don't have chickens or other livestock right now, and anything else that makes a person a homesteader. It just feels weird because I want to be more self-sufficient, but I am not actively doing anything right now except for planning.

On other projects, the bedroom is almost done. We just need to paint and put quarter round along the edges in the room. We also need to rewire a new light switch, switch out the ceiling fan, put new vent covers on, and put on covers for the outlets and light switch. I would like to paint the closets yet, but that is not a high priority job.

With the bedroom almost done upstairs, we moved the bed upstairs that was sitting in my food storage and emergency area taking up a lot of room! My food storage and emergency area is a disaster area right now. I really need to clean and organize it. I would love to add another set of shelves, but we are also moving the deep freeze over there. I also need to move the shelves away from the wall and clean. Fun, fun.

Paige in the white shirt playing in the saxophone quartet

That has been about it. Dane finished up with basketball. Paige is just her usual whirlwind of activity: track, helping with musical, solo/small group ensemble contest, and studying. Rob and I were both down with a cold and a virus. We didn't have them at the same time, but they really killed our energy levels for a few days.

The older two girls are staying busy in their lives. Shali moved to Sioux Falls in January. She moved in with her fiance and is expecting a little girl in June. She transferred from UNI to University of Sioux Falls. Jordan is still at UNI and studying. She works for the Y-Pals program and works a lot of before and after school shifts for them in the local schools.

What have you been up to this March? Let me know below!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Monthly Update From The Homestead - February Edition


February is here! The month of love, the month of cabin fever, the month of boredom...

Actually, we haven't had much in the way of cabin fever. The month started out cold, but today we will be in the 60's for temperatures! In February! I will take it!

Just to have a thunderstorm and snowstorm at the end of the month...February you fickle....

We are just patiently waiting for Spring to come by trying to get stuff done indoors. We are still working on that bedroom that I hope to have the painting done by the end of the weekend. We have the floor done. (YES!) The walls have been given a couple coats of paint to freshen it up, but we decided to go back and do the trim. It needed to be touched up and I couldn't match the original color so I decided to do it again. While I am doing that, the ceiling will need to be done again. And the quarter round will need to be bought, painted, cut and attached. So much fun!



I still want to get the upstairs hallway painted too this winter. That should not take as long, but I am not sure what to do about the trim. The paint on the trim is enamel based which means it will not be painted over well. I might just rip it off and put new trim on. We haven't really talked about it yet.

All the upstairs doors also need to be addressed. A few of them need to be sanded down and stained or repainted. Hinges are the big problem and will probably need to be replaced. Rob has been constantly re-tightening screws and they seem to come loose again.

All those things above? The joys of living in an old house. The reasons I hate tackling remodeling projects. One thing turns into another thing to fix and to do. Plans get bigger and more work becomes involved. Ugh. I love the finished project, but I don't love the mess and constantly changing plans to get there.

Otherwise, I have been still hauling things to the thrift store. I am stunned by how much stuff we have gotten rid of. I have been finding even more things that I really thought I needed, but really don't need or use. However, I am going to start entering the sentimental things area of decluttering and I am not sure what I will do then.

I hope to start tomatoes soon in the seed pods. I might get a grow light to help with the growing since I lack good southern exposure in my house. I really want to start growing my tomatoes from seed. I spend way too much money on tomato plants!

Since I like to save money, Rob and I have been really examining our utility bill. We are both fully committed to seeing that bill drop considerably. We have ideas as to what we want to do and what needs to be focused on. We are both appalled by how much it has gone up. We are also baffled by a few fees on the bill, namely an access charge that costs us $37 a month no matter what. 

We haven't done a lot of prepping lately. This is not because we are comfortable with the state of the world today. We are far from being comfortable. We have been looking at guns and did go to our first and second gun shows in one day. We walked away with empty hands, but it is great to handle the guns and know what feels comfortable in our hands. We have also been exploring off grid options so we aren't screwed if the electricity disappears for awhile. 

Sometimes, prepping isn't about what you purchase. Sometimes, prepping is about the research and the decisions to make the future easier.

What have you been doing in February?

Thanks,
Erica



Monday, February 20, 2017

20 Things You Can Do On Your Spring Homestead


Spring! The promise of hope. The start of the growing season. The warmer temperatures and fickle weather. The possibilities of what can be done!

I love Spring! Winter is over except for the possibility of a late snowstorm. Summer is coming. You can be outside most of the time without freezing your gluteus maximus. Which is a good thing because there is so much to do in the Spring on a homestead!

20 Things You Can Do On Your Spring Homestead:

1. Start seeds inside. Check out your planting zone, but now is a good time to start onions, tomatoes, peppers, and other things you might buy as plants at the store.

2. As soon as your planting zone allows, plant seeds in your garden. You can plant radishes and other cold hardy vegetables and greens as soon as the frost is out of the ground. Most of them will survive a late frost also.

3. Fix fences. Winter can be harsh on your fences. While the ground is fairly soft (not soggy), now is good time to put new stakes in the ground and pull up old ones.

4. Fix damage to outside buildings. Did you have a roof leak on the coop? Now is a good time to address it. Did the snow and rain damage the sides of the building? Now is also a good time to address that.

5. Get new chicks! Spring is a great time to start a new flock or add to the current one. Anyway you look at it, new chicks are cute and should be on a homestead!

6. While you are getting chicks, some new turkey poults, goslings, and ducklings would be good too. If you are looking for some different forms of protein in the form of eggs and meat, all of these are great. If you really want to and have the room and shelter for them, goats, lambs, calves and piglets are all great additions to the homestead too!

7. Build a new raised garden bed or make a new garden. If you can expand, now would be a good time to do.

8. Clean up the yard. Get the rocks out of the lawn so you don't ruin the lawn mower or break a window. Clean up the trash that has blown over from the neighbors.

9. Pick up the sticks and branches that fell over the winter. At my house, this gets it own number on the list. We have a lot of trees and we seems to lose a lot of branches over the winter.

10. Cut down the dead trees. Cutting down the trees now will give the wood time to cure if you are using a wood stove. Otherwise, make a little money on the side selling firewood.

11. Plant new trees. I am a big believer in planting trees. We need them for the environment. They provide a great wind break and shade from the sun. If you plant fruit or nut trees, you can add to your food resources.

12. Clean out the buildings. The garage, the coops, the barn, all of it. They all need a good Spring cleaning after winter and being closed up.

13. Build a rabbit hutch and start raising rabbits. Rabbits are a great form of protein and good eating. If you end up with more rabbits than you know what to do with, start selling them to make a little income on the side.

14. Spring clean the house. A good homestead works best when the house is clean, tidy, and organized. Get everyone involved and give the house a good cleaning including washing the windows and the curtains.

15. Clean the outside of the house and buildings. A good cleaning of the buildings keep the place looking neat and tidy. It also keeps the mold off the house, the dirt from building up in the crevices, and problems from happening like leaks and corrison. Don't forget to clean the gutters too!

16. Take care of the clothesline. Nothing smells better than fresh laundry and the money saved from doing it. Now is a good time to tighten up the lines, replace any lines that have cracked or rusted, and clean them. I just use a wet rag over my hand and run my hand down each line 3-4 times. You would be surprised how dirty they are!

17. If you don't have any, now is a good time to set up a rainwater catchment system. It is as easy as setting a screened barrel with a spout under a downspout from a gutter to catch the water. You will save money not having to run your well or pay for the extra water. You will also have water on hand for livestock or watering plants if you lose power.

18. Want chicks, but don't have a coop? Build a chicken coop! There are some specific things they need like an enclosed area, nesting boxes and a roost, but they don't need a lot of room. You can make one fairly cheap with reclaimed materials too.

19. If you haven't already done this, plan your garden. What do you want to plant? What worked last year? What would you like to preserve and can? What do you actually like to eat? Last year, I planted 22 tomato plants and I am glad I did. I had a really decent harvest with plenty to can and to eat. This year, I want to plant at least that many, but I need a better staking system. I want to plant more peppers too. I only had four plants out of sixteen produce. I need to plant them further away from the tomatoes that tried to suffocate them. You need to consider things like that when planning your garden.

20. Start some beehives. Spring is a good time to get some beehives started. With bees being endangered, more people need to do their part to start raising and homing them. You can purchase a beehive kit from Amazon to get started. To get bees, talk to local beekeepers or your local extension office about where to purchase them. In addition to getting bees, plant some bee loving plants and bushes around the homestead to keep them fed!

What do you want to do on your homestead this Spring?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Friday, February 10, 2017

10 Lessons Learned From The Victorians, The Pioneers, and The 1800's


The Victorian age in Britain was a fascinating time. Many changes were made from the beginning of the century to the end. Britain experienced a massive industrial upheaval becoming more mechanized and more advanced as the century went on.

In the United States, we went through many upheavals resulting in the Industrial Age at the end of the century. We were exploring the West as pioneers, experiencing mass immigration from other countries, went through the War of 1812, the Civil War, and the Spanish American War.

Many similarities were experienced between both countries.The daily life of people were essentially the same. A lot of people nowadays think they want to go back to this time, but they don't always realize the work that was involved.

I just got done reading How To Be A Victorian: A Dawn-To-Dusk Guide To Victorian Life by Ruth Goodman. What an eye opening book! I also have read a lot of pioneer books, industrial age books, and immigrant life in America books from the same time period as Ms. Goodman's book.

We do not realize how good we have it and how hard our lives would be if we had to go back to those times. I am focusing on the poor mostly in these lessons because most of us would be considered poor then. We would be working in factories, mines, or farms. We would be living in tenements, small houses, or in one rented room. We would have a lot to learn. 

10 Lessons Learned From The Victorians, The Pioneers, and The 1800s

1. Life was hard unless you were rich. Everyone including the children had to work. Money was scarce, food was expensive, and city living was not cheap. Working conditions were often dangerous and harsh. Many people worked 12-14 hours a day, six days a week. Chores were often back-breaking and labor-intensive.

2. Everyone was expected to contribute including the children. Everyone had to work including the children. Without the children working, families often could not afford rent and food. By the end of the 19th century, goods became cheaper as the ability to transport them became easier.

3. Being a stay at home mother was rare. You hear more about stay at home mothers from pioneers and the well-off families. However, with the poor, the immigrants, and the servants, mothers needed to work as soon as they could. There are testimonials of women bringing their babies to work with them or leaving them home with older children.

4. Medical science was far from good and reliable. People often died from diseases like cholera, diphtheria, typhoid fever, small pox, etc. People often died from the so-called cures too. Anyone could make a "cure" and sell it from door-to-door. These cures may contain laudanum, cocaine, opium, mercury, and other dangerous substances. Although medical schools existed, many doctors did not have the tools to perform surgeries successfully or safely. People would often rather suffer or die than to have a doctor treat them.

5. Schooling was a luxury. Many children either went to a country school or a city school from ages 5-12. After that, many children started working in factories or were needed at home. However, quite a number of children did not go to school in the poorer classes until reforms were made in Britain and America in the middle to end of the 19th century. These reforms included children going to school at a certain age, being in school at least part time, being in school until 12 years of age, and knowing the basics of reading and math. Very few children pursued schooling beyond age 12 unless they were in the upper middle class or upper class. Very, very few girls pursued or were allowed to pursue higher than elementary education.

6. Meals were much, much simpler. Meat was not eaten at every meal. It was too expensive to eat every day unless you could hunt or raise your own. If any meat was served during a meal, the first and biggest serving went to breadwinner of the house. He needed his strength to keep working long hours. Most noon meals were bread, potatoes, butter, maybe a piece of bacon for flavoring, a sort of savory pudding, and/or a savory pie. Vegetables were not easy to acquire in the cities nor were they affordable to most poor people until the end of the century. Sunday meals may have a more meat based meal, but only if they could afford it.

7. Daily chores were not easy. Many innovations were made in the 19th century to help women in the home, but everything still had to be done by hand. From cleaning out the wood stove or coal stove to getting water for dishes and laundry, many tasks were grueling, dirty, and back-breaking. Laundry was a multiple day process with stain removal, soaking, heating the water, the actual plunging and scrubbing, wringing the water out, hanging to dry, starching and ironing. Some people were lucky to have water indoors which made laundry, dishes, and cooking a little easier.

8. Pioneering and homesteading was dangerous ordeal. After a man or woman found land to buy or discover, he had to get there in good time to claim that land. It took money to initially purchase land or you could "prove" a homestead claim with ownership after five years. If you had a homestead claim, you had five years to "prove" the claim. You had to live on the land, build a house, till the land, plant crops, plant trees, and improve the land you were trying to claim. A person had to do this all by himself or with the help of neighbors. You brought only what you could carry in your wagon and you hoped you could purchase the rest when you got to your claim. If you were lucky, you might have a new town within a few hours walking or horse-riding distance to purchase supplies including food. You took the risk of claim jumpers, robbers, Native Americans, and greedy land agents stealing your land and maybe taking your life.

9. Even in the 1800's, very few people were living exclusively off the land. Many pioneers, homesteaders, and farmers did the best they could, but still had to go to town for flour, sugar, salt, nails, and material for clothing. Neighbors helped each other. They did as much as they could themselves, but even people living in the country still needed trading posts and general stores. They sold eggs and fresh vegetables to earn money or to trade for needed goods. Yes, they did as much as they could for themselves, but they couldn't always grow wheat for flour or produce their own goods for building houses and barns.

10. Living to old age was a rarity in the 19th century. The average age of males was 40-45. The average age of women was 42-50. People could and did die from so many things then. Life threatening illnesses, workplace accidents, unsafe equipment, unsafe medications, child birth, and many more things than what we have to worry about now. Now we live longer due to advances in safety for the workplace and medical advancements, but we have our own killers that were rare in the 19th century. Advances in personal hygiene and workplace safety helped increase the chances of living longer as the century went on, but the average still seems like a very short period of time.

Many people think now a days that they could easily go back and live in these times. While having the knowledge we have now would make a big difference, most of us simply could not handle the amount of work and labor that our predecessors had to do. We are not conditioned for a hard life, hard labor, working long hours, and being physically fit enough to do it.

Do you think you could live in the 1800s? Do you think your families could handle this?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Friday, January 6, 2017

Monthly Update From The Homestead - January Edition (Goals, Life, Etc.)


Were you ready for the holiday chaos to be over? I was. I love the holidays, but I do not like the craziness of the season. I have scaled back a lot in my celebrating, but the struggle to make the season simple is real. 

December was also Paige's birthday. She turned 16! Yikes! Where has the time gone?!?! She also got one of these: 


Watch out world! 

We are buried in snow and ice right now. That is the reality of living in the Midwest in winter. The wind has been crazy though! If the wind hasn't been crazy, the really cold temperatures have been! We are on our second "cold snap" of the winter. This morning we woke up to -7℉! Brrr....

As I mentioned before, I do not really have any goals or resolutions for the year. Okay, I take that back. I have five things I want to see happen, but they are fairly personal and not really relating to homesteading: 

  1. I want to get $1000 in a savings account for emergencies.
  2. I want to save $1000 for next Christmas.
  3. I want to pay cash for a new to me vehicle.
  4. I want to go on at least two dates a month with Rob - more than just eating out. (He really doesn't know about this one, but he will when he reads this!) 
  5. I want to read a chapter in a book or a magazine almost every day. 

These are very simple, yet personal goals for the year. I do not really have homesteading, prepping, or self-sufficiency goals as of right now. I am going with the flow of these. I have a lot of things I would like to see happen, but I am not setting anything in stone. Truth be told, my mind is kind of scattered right now and I am just letting things happen as they come. We have a lot of projects that need to be done and they will come first. 

I already started the first project. I am remodeling the upstairs master bedroom. We do not use it right now, but would love to move back up there. We sleep in the basement bedroom that I set up for myself about eight years ago. I love this space, but we are going to turn that into badly needed guest bedroom(s). So it is time to create a space that is both of ours and that we love to come to every night. 



We first moved the full size bed that was in there to Paige's room. She had a twin size bed, but the bed was small and the mattress was less than stellar. We threw out the mattress and the broken bunk mate that was under it. 

I have the carpet, padding, and linoleum torn up. Actually, there wasn't much tearing up to do. None of it really reached the edges and none of it was attached to the floor in any way. I cut the carpet up in sections to haul out. The padding was already in easy to handle sections. The linoleum was broken up in easy to handle sections also. The floor now looks like this: 



I will be painting the walls first. The paint needs to be freshened up. Then the floor will be sanded and sealed. Rob wants to match the trim to the floor so we will be replacing at least the floor trim if not all of it. Then we start bed shopping. We are switching from a queen size bed to a king size bed. We both need plenty of space to sleep!

Rob is finishing up the wiring in the shop. He has done so much in there and it looks so nice! He now has plenty of outlets and lighting. He has learned how to wire a three way switch with multiple lights which was a challenge for him. He has also added a lot of insulation to the walls and around the windows which has made a big difference in that room. He has more plans for the shop including adding shelving and cabinets for storage. 

Since it is winter, we have time to get the indoor projects done! When the weather turns nice again (hurry up Spring!), we will be cleaning up the yard and working outdoors again. We will also be building a new chicken coop! 



You can check out my latest YouTube video! That will give you an idea of what I was up to in December. I was mostly trying to clear up some clutter and to clean up my side of the office a bit. 

How is your January going? Let me know in the comments below! 

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Thursday, December 22, 2016

My Mind Is Literally Going In A Hundred Directions...


I haven't done a post like this in a long time, but the end of the year is coming. This post may be a little long, but I want to explain where I am at right now, what I am interested in now, and where I am at in life. I haven't even looked at my goals for this year in about six months. I know some have been accomplished, but not all of them. I don't think, as of right now, I will set specific goals for next year.

I am okay with that.

Because my mind is going in a hundred directions. Literally.

My life this year has been crazy. In January, Rob and I started living together and there continues to be a lot of adjustments for both of us as well as the kids. The kids at home are busy and continuing to live the life of a 16 year old and a 12 year old. Although I do have to say having a 12 year old boy after three girls is quite different. Not always in a good way either.

However, my interests are the same and different. This is where my mind is going right now.

I still love and am interested in what this blog is about: prepping, homesteading, and frugality. I struggle to separate the three of them in my mind most days. I wonder how much more I can do and what I should do. I always plan to be more frugal in the next year even though I can't always figure out how to be even more frugal than I already am. However, there is always more to be done.

Our finances are going to change in January a bit and that will be an interesting challenge. As for many people, health insurance rates are going to rise for us too. We are also taking on a couple bills that the landlords had paid for in the past which will need to be added in the budget. We have separate accounts and separate budgets, but we usually discuss and decide how joint bills will be paid.

I am going to try to participate in the Uber Frugal Month Challenge by The Frugalwoods. I adore their blog! I saw their post about this challenge and knew I should participate. I love a good challenge once I have my mind convinced to do it.

We are also looking at ways to lose some, if not all, of our dependence on electricity. We have been talking about and researching solar and wind energy to either power some of our things like the well pump or to be a back-up when the power goes out. We have some ways to heat the house if we lose power. However, the whole house is electric so we need to figure out something different. We are just a little leery about the power grid and its stability...

I am now finding myself passionately interested in minimalism, zero waste lifestyle, living with less, decluttering, and methods of  organization. I have been decluttering a lot more this last year because nothing says you have too much stuff than moving in with someone! The organizing needed to happen because I was, and sometimes still am, the only person who can find things. That does not work when you really do not want the other people in your life dependent upon you!

Why such the interest in these things? I see them as an extension of prepping, homesteading, and frugality. I think they fit hand in hand. Too much stuff and too much waste can clutter up your efforts in prepping and homesteading. Not being organized means you spend precious time finding your stuff and/or buying replacements when you can't find them. Both of those things can thwart your frugal ways by spending your time and money when you didn't need to. Having order can be benefit to every area of your life.

It also can be a vicious circle which is why I spend more time studying more of these things. I want to break the cycle.

Speaking of breaking the cycle, I need to do so on my health too. I thought my yearly doctor's visit would be the wake-up call I needed. It wasn't. My blood tests and my screens all came back nearly perfect. Cholesterol was a little high. The doctor mentioned I should lose weight, but was pleased because my weight had not increased.  She still thinks I need to be on a low carb diet because she thinks everyone should be. I do agree with her on that.

So now I research and try to implement methods, meals, and snacks that are low carb. This is so hard! I have a heck of a sweet tooth when it comes to chocolate, caramel, and a certain company's oatmeal cream pies. None of which are mentioned on the various low carb plans! Right now, my research keeps leading me to the Ketogenic diet and the Trim Healthy Mama diet. I have mostly converted my sugar usage to sugar substitutes like Stevia, Erythritol, and Xylitol or combination of them. The rest of my diet needs work.

This is a switch for me honestly. I am still very interested in natural health and eating naturally. I still think some of the foods I am not suppose to have are still very healthy for me. I have a tough time giving up legumes, some grains, honey, bread, and jams made from scratch. Fruit hasn't been a huge deal for me because I can't digest a lot of it. I like strawberries and blueberries in season so I am fine with those being a treat.

I also still want to grow most of my own food. I miss my garden now that winter is here and I am thinking about getting a greenhouse. It would be nice to keep growing more cold tolerant crops in the winter. I miss having chickens, but they are coming back this Spring. I want fresh eggs again! We are planting more fruit trees next year also. My interest in being self-sustainable will never go away. 

This seems like a lot of directions for the mind to go. I get so interested in so many things! The mind is going crazy with all this information and decisions to be made!

But, as always, I am still interested in writing, blogging, and vlogging. The more I see the connections in everything I am interested in, the more I want to talk about it. This blog will probably expand more into all these areas as I learn more and experience more of what I am interested in. I think prepping, homesteading, and being frugal can and does encompass all these things.

All this has made making goals for next year very difficult. I will probably do monthly goals and make the changes a bit more bite-size. I want to learn more, do more, be more, and have enough to live life.

Where is your mind going? What is your next year going to look like?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Thursday, December 15, 2016

20 Tips For Surviving Winter in the Midwest (or Anywhere!)


Winter can be brutal in the Midwest. The wind blows like crazy, the temperature drops with only an overnight notice, and the snow can really mess things up! 

For example, this is today's and this weekend's forecast:




Just lovely, eh?

However, I am here to help you stay warm, dry, and hopefully safe. Winter can catch people off guard. They aren't dressed properly, do not have the right gear with them, and can totally underestimate how cold they can get. Some people can get caught in these conditions by taking going in the ditch during bad road conditions, having a vehicle break down on the side of the road, or having a car not even start due to the cold conditions. 

20 Tips For Surviving Winter in the Midwest (or Anywhere):

1. Always have and wear insulated gloves, a hat that covers your ears, and a scarf. These three things go a long ways towards staying warm.

2. Wear a good heavy coat. This should go without saying, but I see so many people without them!

3. Wear layers. It is easier to peel off layers when you are warm then to put them on when you have to in an emergency. Today I am wearing a tank top under a long sleeve shirt with a fleece vest over the top. I am pretty cozy right now. Think about adding a thermal, another long sleeve shirt, or a sweatshirt would work too. 

4. Wear good, warm, heavy socks. Warm socks can make all the difference in keeping your feet warm and keeping your body temperature up. What kind of socks you wear is your choice. I like a good cotton pair, but wool is also very good. If your feet are still cold, there is no shame to wearing two pairs of socks. 

5. Wear a good pair of boots or insulated shoes. Really, warm feet help keep the rest of your body warm!

6. Take care of your skin. This might sound girly, but dry, cracked lips, hands, and feet are no fun in the winter. You feel even more miserable and the cold will just makes things worse. Use a good lip balm, thick lotion for the hands, and petroleum jelly or heavy foot cream for your feet. Taking care of your feet will also make your socks last longer! 

7. Use flannel sheets on the beds. Trust me on this one. A warm bed is great in the winter! You can turn down the thermostat at night and everyone can stay toasty warm. If people are getting cold, add blankets to the beds and tell them to wear more layers!

8. Use blankets. To keep the thermostat at a reasonable temperature, get out the blankets. Have 1-2 blankets on every piece of furniture that can be sat on or laid on so people can cover up. Also, put on some layers of clothes. Winter is not the time to run around wearing shorts in the house!

9. Have a vehicle emergency kit in the car. Weatherize it for winter. Always keep a blanket (or 3) in the car. Be prepared in case you are stranded anywhere. Always carry water and snacks with you. 

10. Keep an eye on the fluid levels in your vehicle. Use windshield wiper fluid designed for freezing temperatures. Do not ever let your anti-freeze get low. Get regular on the oil changes. By keeping the fluid levels in your vehicle up, your vehicle will run better and your risk of being stranded goes down considerably.

11. Develop some indoor hobbies and tackle the indoor DIYs. Really, for me, winter is the most boring time of the year. So I tackle the indoor stuff. By keeping busy, time goes faster, your mood will be better, and you will feel great getting some stuff accomplished!

12. Know where your indoor emergency supplies are and how to use them. We rarely lose power for longer than eight hours, but some people can lose power for days. Knowing where our heater is, keeping the propane cylinders full,  and being able to use our camp stove for cooking helps make life more comfortable when we do lose power. 

13. Keep some containers filled with water. The last thing you want to do is to melt snow for water if the power goes out. I keep 2-3 five gallon containers filled with water. I also keep some miscellaneous containers filled for flushing toilets and whatnot. Just remember to check the containers and refresh the water every year. 

14. Always let someone know where you are going and how long you plan to be gone. Cell phones are a wonderful thing until they run out of battery. If you are going shopping an hour away, let someone know. If you get stranded, someone will know because they will realize you aren't back yet. 

15. Now is the time for hot, hearty meals and drinks. Coffee, tea, and hot chocolate are always good warmers. Beef stew, chili, and casseroles make good, filling meals that will keep you warm inside. Prop the oven door open when you are done cooking to add heat to the house while the oven is cooling.

16. Keep up on the vitamins. Keeping up on the vitamins and supplements in the winter will be very beneficial to you. For example, Vitamin D helps the immune system, helps with winter blues, and keeps your body strong and healthy. Vitamin C helps the immune system and keeps your body healthy also. 

17. Pay attention to the weather forecasts. I know there are wrong sometimes, but they can be scarily accurate too. People can be so brave and say things like "it's just a little snow" or "the weatherman never gets anything right". However, there is nothing worse than being stranded on the side of the highway or in a ditch because you are stuck and there is a towing ban until morning. Pay attention to the forecast and give it the caution it deserves. 

18. Keep the house stocked up on food. So many people make last minute runs to the grocery store before a big storm. While it is good to get a few essentials, keeping the house stocked on food means you don't need to run to the store. You are ready to be stuck at home for a few days or weeks without having to go anywhere. Another tip: keep easily re-heatable food on hand like canned soup. 

19. Keep the vehicle's gas tank full. Do not let your gas tank get less than half. If you are stuck anywhere, then you should have enough gas to run the vehicle until help arrives. 

20. Spend time with others. Seriously, the winter seems never ending in the Midwest. We know Spring is coming, but in December that seems a long ways off. Spend time with friends and family. The conversation and the laughter is a very good mood booster which will help greatly with the Winter blues. 

What do you do to cope with the Winter? How do you survive the Winter?

Thank for reading,
Erica


Monday, October 31, 2016

16 Ways To Stay Warm This Winter & Not Have To Crank Up The Thermostat


Winter is barreling down the tracks as we speak! Since it always promises to be a cold winter here in the Midwest, I thought I would share some tips and tricks to stay warm this winter and not have to crank up that thermostat!

Saving money is more important than ever now so if you can find ways to keep the bills low, you can save even more money! Before you start these tips though, you and your family need to agree on a minimum and maximum temperature you are willing to keep the house. Make a sign to put by the thermostat and set the settings in the thermostat. This will help keep your heating bill consistent.

16 Ways To Stay Warm This Winter & Not Have To Crank Up The Thermostat

1. Wear clothes! I know this is a given, but I know people who can't understand why their heat bill is so high. They are wearing shorts and tank top in the house with their heat on 80 degrees! What?!?! Wear some layers, put on some socks, and you will stay much warmer without having the heat so high.

2. Get your furnace and heat system checked out. Just like you, your heating system needs a good check-up every 1-2 years to make sure it is running smoothly and efficiently! If you have a propane system, make sure you get a leak check done on your tank and regulators so you are not loosing propane in the air. Be sure to always change your filters on a regular basis. 

3. Layer up your beds. Make sure you have blankets and quilts for the beds so you can add more layers to the bed to stay warm without having to turn up the thermostat.

4. Turn down the thermostat overnight. Most people sleep better in a cooler environment anyway, but keeping the thermostat turned down also saves you money. See #3 and wear some more clothes to bed to stay warm!

5. Shut off the rooms you are not using. If you have rooms that you are clearly not using and nothing in them will freeze, close off those rooms. Turn the registers to close and keep the doors closed so you are not heating those rooms.

6. Put plastic on the windows. This saves us a tremendous amount of money. I recommend doing the north and west facing windows for certain, but we try to do all the windows if we can. We have a bay window that is just a drafty pain in the neck so it has plastic almost all year around.

7. Use extra heaters or baseboard heat. I know this sounds counter intuitive, but hear me out. If you have rooms that you are using that the heat does not reach well through the vents, shutting off those vents and putting a heater or electric baseboard heat in the room will keep it warmer. Your furnace will not have to work so hard to heat that room thus saving you money.

8. Keep moving! We get rather sedentary in the winter. We sit on the couch, covered in blankets, and wonder why we are so cold! Time to get moving! Working out, keeping the house clean, and taking care of those indoor projects will help get the blood moving and keep you warmer!

9. Eat hot food and drink hot drinks. It makes sense, doesn't it? If you eat warm, hearty foods, you will get warm. If you drink hot drinks to warm up, you will stay warm.

10. Light some candles. They add warmth to the air, great ambiance, and cover up the funky air smell in the house. You can also make some clay pot warmers to add some more warmth to the room.

11. Wear a hat in the house. You will stay warmer if the head is covered. You really do lose body heat when you have your skin or head uncovered. Wear a hat and you will stay warmer.

12. Make sure the windows are closed and the doors stay close! We have storm windows and we use those babies all summer. The breeze is great! However, money will just go out the window if the windows are properly close. Make sure the storm windows are closed and the windows are closed/locked in the proper position.

And yell at the kids for not closing the door. You have my permission!

13. Fill in the gaps and block the drafts. On a breezy day this fall, take a walk around your house inside and out. If you see some gaps outside, fill them in with caulk or expandable foam. Inside the house, look for fluttering curtains. Take a match along the outside walls inside your house and look for the flame to flicker or go out. Address the drafts. Either do #6 or fill in the gaps if you can. Also, using a draft blocker on the bottom of your doors will keep the house warmer too.

14. Hang heavy insulated curtains that are designed to block drafts and keep the house warmer. They really do help to keep the house warmer.

15. Use hot water bottles and hot bricks covered in towels to help warm up beds and bodies at bedtime. Getting into a warm cozy bed is the best thing ever. Getting into bed with cold sheets is not the best thing ever. Waiting for those sheets to warm is torture! Putting a hot water bottle or a hot brick covered with a towel into the bed to warm up will help you stay warm!

16. Snuggle with the one you love! Cuddling with another person helps you both warm up and create more body heat! Some of you are very anti-cuddling (and I get that, trust me!), but winter is the time to put aside your personal preferences and help your partner stay warmer. You will also be saving money which might help this idea seem like a better one!

I know some of you are going to say "put in a wood burner!" which is a lovely thing, but some people cannot put them in. Apartments, rentals, and some insurances are completely against the idea. However, if you can, do consider it!

These are all ways we use to save money while staying warm in the winter. What do you do to stay warm in the winter?

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Saturday, October 29, 2016

20 Things We Do Not Throw Away


Every year, more and more trash is accumulated in our landfills due to our wasteful habits. Many people will only use something once and throw it away. Many people still do not recycle their packaging despite the increasing availability of recycling centers. And many people would rather throw away their old things rather than take them to a thrift store or consignment shop. 

However, being a believer in the frugal lifestyle and a student of the zero waste lifestyle, I cannot do that. We actually have very little trash for a house this size most of the time. We recycle as much as possible. I sell the things we do not use anymore or I donate them to the thrift shop. We try to use things until they are no longer functional. We fix broken things to be used again. 

Below is a list of things we do not throw away. I know I am forgetting things, but this is a good start!

1. Anything that is recyclable. I was raised to recycle and still do this as much as possible.

2. Twist ties from bread and buns.

3. Nuts, bolts, nails, washers, and screws. Unless they are rusty or bent. Or cheap and will strip out on the first twist of the drill.

4. Resealable plastic bags. We wash them out and reuse them until they have holes or held raw meat.

5. Brown paper bags.

6. Gift bags and tissue gift wrap.

7. Plastic store bags.

8. Buckets of just about any size.

9. Food! We have made a concentrated effort to be much more diligent about this. Having a dog and chickens helps to make sure food does not go to waste.

10. Rubber bands from anything.

11. Buttons. I even cut them off shorts and shirts before we use them for rags or throw them away if they are usable as rags. 

12. Hand soap containers. We refill these until the pump does not work anymore.

13. Whipped topping and big yogurt containers. How else are you suppose to send leftovers home with people?

14. Canning jars. If they can't be used for canning, we use them to store dry goods.

15. Paper. I try to use both sides of the paper before I put it in the burn bin or recycle it.

16. Boxes. I need them for storage and for my giveaway box. If we can't use them anymore, we recycle them.

17. Towels. If they can't be used for bathing or nice kitchen towels anymore, we use them for rags.

18. Clothes. They are either sold, given to someone in need, or donated unless they are too worn out. 

19. Blankets and sheets. We either donate them if they have been outgrown (by teenagers too cool for Disney sheets), use them as drop cloths, to protect plants, or we store them for company. They are never thrown away!

20. Totes of all sizes. I am just amazed at how many people just throw these out on the premise that they don't need them anymore. I can't think of a time I haven't needed them! I keep these and reuse the totes until they are broken past the point that duct tape doesn't hold them together anymore!

This is just a starter list. We have a lot more that we just don't throw away. Although, in the spirit of being honest, sometimes things just end up in the trash. Cleaning out a bedroom just does something to my mind, but I always still have a giveaway box!

What don't you throw away?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, October 24, 2016

Monday Monthly Update From The Homestead - October Edition


Since we are close to the end of October, I thought I would update y'all on what we have been doing this last month. There has been a lot of activity and projects getting done around the place!

But first, some really sad news. The chickens are gone.

Their last day at the farm - snacking on their favorite, kale.

I actually found another home for them that is only three miles away. I didn't really want to butcher them. My heart wasn't into that. However, they needed to be dealt with so we could get rid of the rat problem in the barn. We also want to move the chicken coop out of the barn and into its own building. We have two cement pads we can choose from and I will look at plans over the winter. Early next Spring, we will start over with baby chicks.

We, however, added a mama cat and her four kittens to the homestead! The kittens are adorable and I hope to get pictures of them soon. They don't sit still very long! Keep an eye on my Instagram account for pictures of them!

The garden is wrapping up. I am canning the last of the tomatoes. Paige and I picked what we thought were the tomatoes that were ready or were going to ripen before the big freeze a week ago (?). The plants were killed by the frost, but several more tomatoes survived. Dane and I picked those last night to finish ripening in the house. I have canned close to 50-55 pints of salsa, 36 pints of pizza sauce, and 17 quarts of spaghetti sauce. The last tomatoes will become crushed tomatoes by the end of the week.


I still have peppers to freeze that were not used in canning, but they might get eaten before that happens! I froze eight bags of shredded zucchini. I have four zucchini left and that might just happen them too. I dug up the beets and they are sitting in a cooler in the basement. I need to get them used up soon before they go soft.

I still have pumpkins to finish picking. The potatoes need to finish being dug up. The kale is still going strong. Everything else is dead. I need to get a spot cleared to plant garlic. Otherwise, the garden needs to be cleaned up, the rather ineffective tomato cages need to be put away, and hopefully get the transplanting of the strawberries and lilies done.

The new sump pump and plumbing is in the pit and being used. We never shut that one off, but the plumbing needed to be replaced and a different style of sump pump had to be put in. Hopefully now, the basement will stay much drier with the new set-up.

We had to put a new toilet in. Unfortunately, we both dislike plumbing. However, we like to save money and this wasn't too bad. We couldn't find a tank to toilet gasket that would work with our old toilet. Since the toilet was leaking pretty badly, we bought a new one and got that installed. We did eventually find a gasket online that will work and this winter we will replace the upstairs toilet that nobody likes to use.

Rob has the walls and ceiling painted in the shop. He replaced the breaker box in the shop with a bigger one and will take the old one from the shop to replace the old fuse box in the garage. His skills amaze me and how much he can accomplish amazes me too! I think next on the list is running more electrical for outlets and lights and building shelves and cabinets for his things.

The kids are staying busy. Dane started basketball last week and has practices for another couple of weeks until league play starts. Paige is finished up with marching band, cross country, and all-state choir auditions. She is starting jazz choir this week, working on the set for the fall play, and enjoying a little down time before large group speech starts.


And before I forget, I started my YouTube channel! Sometimes it is just easier for me to talk to a camera than to sit down and type a blog post. However, I will be doing both as much as I can now! You can check out my YouTube channel here! Please subscribe for updates there too!

Let me know what you have been doing this last month!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


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