Success To A Homesteader

Since it is my last blog post of 2016 I thought I would be a bit philosophical.

I have been reading a lot of articles on productivity, improving oneself etc. The idea that has made the biggest impression on me this year was that success is a subjective thing. It is defined by what YOUR OWN values are.

This is something I have never considered. I always saw the achievement of external goals to be success, things that other can see.

But your success is really defined by whether or not you are living in line with your personal values.

Now that I have realized this, I can see that I was successful in my personal endeavours all along, even though I thought I wasn’t getting anywhere. I don’t need more courses, certifications, money, or friends to be successful. I just need to live as close as I can to how I believe I should, focusing on what is most important to me.

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Sometimes it is difficult to screen off all of the noise there is out there, especially in internet-land. People you come in contact with including family members may all try to convince you that something else is worth your time and energy. I’ve had that issue with family for years, always thinking that I should be doing something else. What that does is take you away from what is really important to YOU.

The people who are trying to “help” you are simply projecting their own desire for a different life on to you. They likely think there is no hope for them so maybe they can influence you to do what they never could.

This is not something that one needs to be angry at. It is likely completely unconscious for them and something that needs empathy not criticism.

What I was able to do was separate my likes and dislikes and prevent all the “noise” from distracting me to pay attention to it. I find it uses more energy to follow what you don’t want then to ignore it and do your own thing. At least for me.

So when faced with someone’s idea for you or something that seems appealing, it’s a good idea to do a check-in with yourself to see if it is aligned with your value system and big picture.

I know I will be paying more attention to this everyday.

I hope that you all have time enough for yourselves and are able to move toward what you wish for yourselves in the future. Happy Homesteading.

 

Traditional Christmas Tree Alternative

This year we decided not to use our homemade Christmas tree . It’s pretty tall and a little difficult to fit in the house, especially now with the new puppy around. I don’t want to take any chances with him near it. It could go flying.

Instead, we are using a Ficus plant that I got when I was taking my Horticulture degree in university. This was one of the first things I got when I started living on my own and was a purchased from the Horticulture club on campus.

Use What You Have

Using a houseplant for a seasonal tree is very simple. The only concern is to us appropriate decorations. Obviously the branches on the Ficus are fairly sturdy but in order to avoid damaging anything you will have to minimize the number and weight of the adornments.

Also, if your plant does not have a nice pot to sit in, you may have to decorate that.

I didn’t do anything to the plant pot because there is a large surface area of soil and I need access to that for watering. The pot is just a left over one from a nursery plant that we had purchased and the tray underneath is an old aluminum pizza baking pan.

I know it doesn’t look great, and I may try to fix it up yet, but mostly I just look at the beautiful branches and lights.

It’s best to make sure that if you use electric lights, that you keep them away from the soil when you water.

Earlier this year I trimmed the tree’s branches away from the base and repotted it in a larger pot. The branches are now quite a ways up from the base which gives it a jaunty look.

If you have a larger plant in your house, why not try to decorate it for the season. You never know, it might grow on you.

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ONE Tip For Redecorating Without Spending

We have two pink sitting chairs. Well, three if you count the one we gave to my aunt because we had no room for it. We actually bought the third one at a yard sale because it was the same kind as one we already have. We thought we could use it upstairs in front of the TV up there.

Turns out we didn’t.

This happens a lot, or HAPPENED a lot to us before we clued in to what we were doing. I have to say here that I have always been a frugal advocate, but somehow, as I have said in another blog post, I got a little lost.

Turns out we were buying things left and right and not realizing it.

Then came the chair issue. The two pink chairs in the sitting room are ugly and don’t really look good there. Both were in this house when I moved in. But when I figured out our recent spending habits were not sustainable, I decided that the chairs HAD to stay, no matter what they looked like.

After I had committed to keeping the chairs, I was starting to get a back ache from sitting the the one I usually sit in. It is not a lounging chair, just a temporary sitting chair. The one Ernie sits in is a recliner and very comfortable, even though it is pink.

So we switched the pink chair I was using for the black leather recliner that we had bought for Ernie several years ago that was in the other room.  We don’t need a new chair. Even though the black chair is leather (which actually prevents dog hair from sticking to it), and has some small tears and extra folds we are NOT GETTING A NEW CHAIR.

So the one redecorating tip is to just move stuff around, adding only things that you already have.

It is so easy to think that you need something new to fix a problem.

You probably have something in your house right now like that. It’s something that you don’t really like, is in too good of shape to get rid of it but you still feel it is out of place.

It started when I was a kid.

When I was a kid I used to rearrange my parents basement furniture and put things on the walls to decorate the area. My parents were not going to buy new stuff for the basement. But we had to play there and enjoy the place, so I decorated it.

I just simply moved stuff around until it looked fresh and interesting.

I did that again when I was living at my parents house and was in university. Redecorating weekly and sometimes daily was kind of like meditation for me. I didn’t BUY anything unless it was from a yard sale and under $1, I just used what we already had. This included dried flowers I made from our garden flowers and stuff I pulled from boxes that was stored.

So the lesson of this post is what many of you frugal and homesteading people already know. You don’t necessarily need to throw money at something to fix it. Just use your imagination.

Happy Homestead Redecorating Without Spending!

 

 

Seasonal Lights Issue

This kind of a complaint blog post. I apologize in advance. There is not really any useful information in this post.

I have an issue with the LED lights that are used at this time of year.

We have a box full of strings of LED lights that don’t work. Some of them have been around here for several years but the majority of them didn’t work almost from the very start. This is highly annoying.

And extremely wasteful.

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The lights in the box do not work and have to be thrown out.

I have decided that this wastefulness will no longer continue here at our house.

We put up all of the lights that work in an acceptable display. However, half of the lights we used were NOT LED lights but the old incandescent lights. THESE WORK.

The plan is to keep using the lights – no matter what kind we have –  until they are all gone or don’t work. We won’t be replacing them.

This is part of our contribution to the earth of reducing consumption. Yes, I know we are using power to light these up, but we are not going to throw the good ones away just because of that. We have them and we will use them.

Then we won’t buy anymore.

I feel that throwing away the lights that don’t work is MORE wasteful than the power we use to light them.

Two days ago, my aunt told me a woman who lives here in the village told her she watched as a couple across the street put up their lights on their house. She related that every time a string of lights didn’t work – INTO THE GARBAGE THEY WENT. EIGHT TIMES.

There was no attempt to fix them, they just got chucked.

I did some research and found many articles on how to fix these lights but they did not mention that almost every set has a different end and DOES NOT FIT into the socket. We have tried and failed every time. And we are talking about Ernie failing to fix something which just doesn’t happen.

This is wasteful and if I may say kind of, almost, unethical to make a product that can’t be fixed and gets thrown away when it doesn’t work. And then on top of that saying that they are more earth-friendly.

NONSENSE.

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Ira the Kuvasz playing in the light of the Christmas lights display in the back yard.

 

 

Make A Dog Bathtub From A Livestock Trough

When I first started grooming dog for a living, I did it fast, so I didn’t have much time or money to get all the supplies I needed at the highest quality. Thank goodness we live in an area in which most people didn’t care if I was bathing their dog in a livestock water or feed trough!

We purchased the tub at a farm store in the city an hour away and used it just as it was. One day we were out for a drive in the village and on a road near some cottages someone had put an old bathtub out for garbage. It was a small apartment sized tub – not a regular sized one – but it was perfect for my use.

So we took it and the trough got put aside.

Now we have a puppy who will be a big dog. Already I can’t lift him into the bathtub anymore by myself. At 5 months he is 55 lbs. He will be between 110 and 120 lbs at maturity.

So we get to reuse the trough on a low grooming table that Ernie refashioned (will discuss that in a different post 😎)

Because we can’t lift Ira the Kuvasz into any tubs we have to get him to walk up a ramp or use a step to get into the tub. This means the tub had to be cut in the back in order to make it easy for him to do this.  Hopefully he won’t have a problem after training wanting to enter the bathtub for a bath!

Ernie used a reciprocating saw to cut a section out of the end of the tub. The tub will sit on the low table when we need it.

He fashioned a drain out of left over pieces of plumbing supplies. It is a good idea to keep these things around just in case. And a good idea to learn how to figure things like that out.

The drain simply lets the water into a rubbermaid container underneath. This is all we have for now since there is no floor drain and the drain for the other tub is too high to allow for proper drainage.

Ernie also cut an old rubber tube in half that he had in his junk drawer and put it over the edge of the opening cut. This is where the dog will enter the tub.

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When I am done wetting or rinsing the dog, I simply have to lift the bucket into the other tub and dump it. Hopefully it won’t weigh more than 55 lbs! Actually, I’ll probably just use a smaller bucket to transfer water into the other tub until it is light enough to lift.

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Here I’m working with Tommy who is heavy but nowhere near as  heavy as Ira the Hungarian Kuvasz will be as an adult.

 

The main thing about this tub is that it is not just on the ground and any dog that will be bathed in it will need to become accustomed to being in it and getting sprayed with water. If you do some work ahead of time with out water and with some yummy food almost any dog can learn to step up into the tub with no problem for the dog or you.

This tub could obviously be used for other pets and washing other things as well. The limits are only made by one’s imagination.

I prefer reusing things as much as possible. This is one way we do our part to be kind to nature. We have stuff and we don’t throw it out if at all possible. If we hadn’t used this for a bathtub it would definitely be used for something else. Maybe to grow plants in?

Happy Reusing Stuff!

 

 

 

How We Source Our Food

One of the things (or should I say the main thing) that I am obsessed with here on our village homestead is buying as much food produced locally or producing as much food as we can ourselves (as some of you may be).

Where we live, it is very easy to get meat from farmers/ranchers. This is what we do for beef and chicken. We did have a pork source but the farmer stopped doing that. The meat was so much superior to what we have bought from the store in the past that I no longer eat pork.

If we can’t find a good product we just won’t buy it.

Eggs are fairly easy to get locally but in Canada the public sale of eggs by private individuals is prohibited so people give them away. We purchase honey from a couple who live three blocks away.

The basics are usually what give us trouble in finding. We need to buy flour from the store (even though we are surrounded by grain fields), and anything else needed to bake. Nuts obviously are not grown locally with the exception of wild hazelnuts if you can find them.

We actually grow our own beans (regular and broad beans) and peas and then dry them for  later use. But right now we need to buy other grains like barley, wild rice, lentils and buckwheat. I would love to be able to grow enough for ourselves. Maybe one day.

Dairy is one thing that we can’t get from nearby farmers. We have to buy it in the store. We buy cheese that is produced in our province from milk also produced in the province but milk for drinking (like in coffee or cereal) is not local. I no longer drink milk as is nor use it in cereal.

For fruit and vegetables we now only buy bananas, cauliflower (because we have not been able to grow any substantial amount in our own garden), locally grown mushrooms and the occasional sweet potato as long as it is grown as close by as possible.

In season once a year we buy cherries, blueberries and sometimes strawberries. We have our own local sources for the “Saskatoon” berry and cranberries otherwise known as the Serviceberry. We have more of our own apples and raspberries than we can handle.

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Ernie recently read an article about sweet potatoes and found out that the majority of what we get here comes from China. Unless it specifically says that it is from a closer place, I won’t buy them anymore.

We all know that it is crucial to be able to get as much food as you can on your own. Getting food locally is important for the experience of enjoying the food, knowing where it comes from, how to procure it and use it, and being thankful for it.

The disconnect between humans and their food is obviously affecting our health, most especially children. This also applies to those who no longer eat meat (not everyone but some).

The idea of food being “cruelty free” food is impossible.  Other animals and many many insects always die as a result of plant harvesting methods – even in organic agriculture.

And unless you are buying certified organic, most grains have been sprayed with herbicide in the fall to “burn” them so the farmer can harvest everything at the same time. Did you know that %75 of conventionally produced sunflower seeds are “dessicated” this way? See an article about that here

Another reason humans need to be aware of where their food comes from is so that they won’t worry about how to survive on the occasion that there is no food available for purchase.

I think I’m interested in trying the 100 mile diet, or here in Canada the “160 kilometre” diet, where you source all you food from places within that radius.

I know I don’t have to tell all of this to any of you who are homesteading. This is something that homesteaders already think about just by their nature.

Happy Food Procurement!

Make Your Own Ketchup

Homesteading 101

We make our own ketchup. It was is easy to do I will never buy any again. The taste is excellent especially with homegrown fried potatoes.

Ingredients for homemade ketchup:

Tomatoes – grow your own

Vinegar – make your own

Onions or onion powder – grow or make your own

Sweetener – we use honey sourced locally

Salt – buy or make your own

Optional: A dash of cloves – I use it because I have some already but I wouldn’t go out and buy any especially for this. Ketchup can be made without it. Be careful how much you use though – it is very potent.

The Method

Cook the tomatoes well and press them through a sieve to remove the seeds and skins if you haven’t already removed them.

Into the tomatoes add sweetener – lots. Ketchup is very sweet so taste test often as you add this.

Add the…

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How I Use My Time On The Homestead

Our homestead is unconventional but is one nonetheless.  It is one because we are homesteaders by vocation. We do the most we can for the environment, self-sufficiency and frugality.

To do and be all these things, it is important to have a daily routine that gets stuff done but is flexible to things that might come up. And things always come up.

Sometimes you just don’t feel like doing something. There is nothing really wrong with that. Feelings are facts, I always say. The only thing that absolutely needs to get done are those things that involve taking care of animals or if the garden is very weedy. The rest of the time I follow a schedule that removes the need to make too many decisions about what I need to do.

Morning:

I work from home, so in the morning I have to get my work done before I do anything else. This means I get up early (well early for me, just 7 a.m.) to work on the computer. I do that for an hour and a half. The quiet is what I need and the dogs and Ernie are still sleeping. There is minimal traffic noise. So at least I can get a good amount of work done first thing.

At 8:30 a.m. I feed the dog and myself. The new puppy is learning the routine now and doesn’t fuss in the mornings after breakfast. I work again from 9:00 – 10:00. From 10:00 – 10:30 the puppy gets a playtime and the other dogs a stretch, so that I can start working again from 10:30 – Noon.

Afternoon:

Since we don’t have any livestock other than dogs (yet), I spend the afternoon working with them. I train and video that and then edit and upload videos to YouTube. I may also at this time video something for Homesteading 101 as well.

When I start making supper around 4 p.m., things are a little more chaotic but still get done, because I am not thinking about all the other work I have to get done – it’s already done because I stuck to the schedule. This is where I can feel the benefit fully of getting work done in the morning. I haven’t had most of the day to think about what I haven’t done. When you have many things to do that are just regular routine things and are fairly unimportant (not talking about taking care of animals here), it is easy to let those things take over your time.

Evening:

This is the time I spend with Ernie and the dogs. If we feel like working on something and are not too tired, we do. If not we don’t.

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It took a while to get this schedule figured out, even though it’s pretty simple. I have made numerous schedules in the past, and have never been able to follow them. With this one, I seem to be able to make it work.

Maybe it’s because of the simplicity of it. I have no choices at certain times of the day. Removing other options of what to do reduces decision fatigue which I have found to be a real problem in the past. Because it seemed like there were so many things to do (even though they were unimportant), I became frozen – not knowing what to do first.

If I take care of the the thing that is most important to me first thing in the morning so that it gets done, I don’t have to worry about finding time later.  If I don’t do it first thing, it won’t get done.

So that is mainly how I manage my time on the homestead. Things that need to get done may change, but I will always remember to get the most important things done early.

M is for Meaningful.

Since we got back from our “vacation” we have drastically reduced our spending. This is part of how I have always wanted to live anyway so it is not much of a problem.

I think I have explained in past blog posts that we prefer to spend money on things that are important to us and not just willy nilly on everything for a quick fix. This is very easy to do sometimes, and is mostly just a bad habit.

In case you haven’t already guessed, M also stands for money, in this post anyway.

One of those things we buy for a quick fix is eating restaurant meals. When we make a regular trip to the city for supplies in the past we have purchased a meal there. This was done completely for convenience since we would be there at the same time as we would normally have lunch or supper.

Just for fun, or to torture ourselves, I have calculated the amount of money we have spent over one year on fast food when we were away from home. I was able to do that because Ernie keeps a daily journal of what we do, eat, etc. and has done so for three years.

We averaged $80 a month.

Some places are more expensive than others but in general a meal for two people is pretty much $20 – $25 each time. If we had a take out meal at home (purchased in our village) that would be added on as well. I did not include convenience foods that were included in a grocery purchase simply because I did not have that info.

This amount and habit is unacceptable to me, so we stopped buying food in restaurants and any extra convenience food items. Now, some people WANT to buy meals out, and reap great benefits from that (this is different for everyone), which is fine. However, for us it is not that important to do on a regular basis. It has always been my belief that (unless you are independently wealthy) you can’t buy everything you see. You have to weight how much benefit you get for something over how much it “costs” you.

Actually, even if someone has lot of money to spend, it could be considered irresponsible to buy a bunch of things just for the sake of buying, convenience, or just because one can. Purchases that are well thought out (to me) are much more satisfying and useful. And less impactful on our earth.

I feel life is more about experiences than buying things, and I’m sure many of you reading this feel the same way as well. Sure, if you want to experience travelling to different countries you’ll need money, or to experience staying at a first class resort.

The way I like to look at it is these things are worthwhile if they are meaningful experiences. If they are, then great. But if they are just for relaxing and pleasure because you work too hard, or if they are for bragging about, then they are likely not meaningful experiences.

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So back to the original point of this post.

We stopped spending money on food in restaurants because it is more meaningful to us to eat our own food that we prepared at home.

There may be an occasion for buying a meal at a restaurant at some point, but for us the regular habit of it is gone. We will take the time to make food at home before we go anywhere, and then save the money for a more meaningful experience later on.

I admit it takes more planning and a bit of organization to get it done, not to mention the time. For me though, time spent making and growing our own food is one of the reasons I am a homesteader, so again it is not an issue.

Getting out of the habit of buying what you think of will immediately “solve your problem” is the most difficult part. It requires desire to change and live differently. It was something that we felt we had to do. Again, not everyone will feel this way about spending money on meals, but there may be something else. What is a meaningful experience for you that you spend money on?

Happy Homesteading.

 

How We Make Sauerkraut

We don’t make sauerkraut every year but this year we had to because of all the cabbages that decided to grow.

For this process we have a ceramic crock that Ernie’s mom used. It is a large high – sided pot really, that was made in Medicine Hat Alberta, Canada. Ernie’s parents were given this crock in 1967 by neighbours but we really don’t know how old it is.

For things like that I just call them “vintage”.

This year we used 18 heads of cabbage for sauerkraut. We also used some of our own onions and of course, coarse salt.

Sauerkraut is so simple. And so tasty. And good for you. So we have decided to make more of an effort to use what we make. Often we forget that we have it, and it gets left over from year to year. This year though I think we have run out so our crock full will definitely get eaten.

Many of you already make this food but I will go over it again anyway because you can do it with almost any container, just on you counter.

Chop or coarsely grate (we grate) the cabbage into the container to about 2 inches or 5 centimetres. Add some onion and the appropriate amount of pickling salt. For us it was 2 tablespoons per layer of cabbage.

Then we filled the container about 3/4 full. As  he went along, Ernie would squish the cabbage in his hands to get the juices out.

Once done filling the crock a clean pail full of water was used to weigh down the cabbage to stay underneath the liquid. Ernie cut two pieces of pine board to fit on top of the cabbage inside the crock that the pail sits on.

Check out my video below to see all the steps.

In the past, Ernie’s mom used to use a board similar to what we use, only she weighed it down with a big rock that they had found here in the yard. I opted for the pail although I’m sure there are many things that could be used to do this job.

Ernie kept tasting the cabbage to check it for sourness over the next two weeks or so. Once it reached what he figured was ready, he squeezed the liquid out by hand and packaged it for freezing.

Not difficult to do at all, and so very good for you.