How To Start Homesteading

Something that I have always believed about a person’s life is that each one of us has to do what is right for us (even when I was not doing that in my own life). Sometimes this means we do something right away without planning and sometimes it means we wait a bit and concentrate on what we have.

It is a personal choice.

What I do know for sure is that if you have an overwhelming sense of restlessness about something and you keep hesitating on taking action, something will eventually occur that will make a change for you.

Homesteading was that for me and I know it is for many others as well.

Homesteading to me means that you have a certain mindset, one that includes but is not limited to frugality, traditional lifestyle techniques, growing your own food, concern for nature and the environment.

Every homesteader has a different way of living and doing things. Some beliefs about homesteading however, are inaccurate. One of these is that a person needs to be in a certain place to do this.

Homesteading is a state of mind.

If you feel that you want to homestead or live a different more sustainable lifestyle you don’t need to move anywhere.

Just start right where you are.

As I have said before, homesteading (as a state of mind) is how person sees the world and what she/he does in it – NOT what property you own. It is a way of living more simply and being more deliberate about what you do. Sure, you can have goals for your future homestead but that does not need to stop you from working with what you have.

There are so many things that you can do right where you are that would technically qualify as homesteading activities.

A: Plant a garden.

No, you do not need to have any space outdoors at all. Start with planting your food flavourings – basil, oregano,thyme, multiplier onions etc in a container on your window sill. Buy some seed and a small bag of soil and plant them.

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B: Don’t throw everything away.

To grow a herb garden in your apartment, you don’t need to buy any fancy pots. Start by using plastic food tubs that no longer have food in them. I know you have those. Make smallish drainage holes on the bottom and find a reusable tray to put it on to catch the water.

C: Find multiple sources of income.

It is a really good idea to not have all your income come from one source. The reliance on one employer or one method of making money is what gets many people in trouble with regards to debt and making payments. The feeling of security from an employer can over ride sensible thinking.

An example of this is when I was working at the local nursing home. A woman who I worked with had applied for a position in the care home. She already had a job there but it was for fewer hours than the new position.

Since no one else applied, she figured she was a shoe-in for the position and she and her husband went and purchased a brand new truck on payments. The woman who was giving up her position changed her mind and kept it so the first woman didn’t get the position. She was very upset and blamed the other woman for her problem.

Relying on one source of income can be problematic when you spend more than you make or have payments that need a job to be paid.

D: Spend less.

This is a given for a homesteader. The point of homesteading (I feel) is to enjoy life more without spending on everything you see, to be more connected to nature and more conscious about what you are doing in day to day life. One of the things that we do here is buy only what we absolutely need. We rarely buy “wants” because we have trained ourselves to rethink a want before purchase.

For example, I have a large amount of yarn for knitting and crocheting. I don’t need anymore. Sure it’s tempting to purchase yarn for that really cool sweater. But I don’t need anymore sweaters. I have several. I am not trying to impress anyone with my new sweater, which is essentially what buying something you want is for.

E:  Don’t be influenced by those who are not doing.

When someone says something negative about your new pastimes (pickling, soap-making, herb growing…), ignore them. You need to keep in mind what your goals are and don’t listen to anyone else.

Never take advice from someone who’s life is not your ideal life.

Your life is your own and what someone else says about it is irrelevant because the comment is not related to you at all. It comes from that person’s own psychology.

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I remember one time my aunt had a older couple visiting. At the time I had really started to get into dogs and dog training. As we were standing around talking the man started picking on me about cleaning up after the dogs (poop-scooping).

He had spent his whole life shovelling livestock crap and he couldn’t understand how anyone would want to pick up any from any animal. He just couldn’t get over how I could do this.

This is not important information. This is purely emotional, based on how much he hated shovelling manure and that he spent his whole life at it. Therefore, to him, no one else should ever do that again.

In order to validate his own dislike of something, he tried to disempower me with negative questioning and ridicule and make himself feel better.

This is not information that would help me accomplish my goals.

I didn’t reply with any fabulous comment to clarify why I pick up dog poop, but his words did serve to make me feel bad – that maybe I was doing something wrong by liking dogs.

My response to him now would be something like “everyone is different” or “not everyone has a problem with poop”, or if I really wanted to be sarcastic perhaps “does that include dirty diapers?”.

Anyway, you get my point. Don’t listen to ANYONE who is talking negative about what you are doing. You are on your own path and must follow that.

So, the most important thing is not what you do to start homesteading. It is that you START and not worry about other people’s opinions of you or what you are doing.

If it is what you really want to do you will do it and if you don’t you will find out soon enough.

 

“Primitive” Kitchen Time Saver

When we go to yard sales in the summer, there are usually certain things that interest me right away. My large-holed grater was one of those things.

For years I used one that had smaller holes for cheese and other stuff, but the way it grated things so small kind of annoyed me. Especially food that was a little moist.

Previously, we used the four sided grater with the handle on top but the handle broke off from use and I was not going to by a new one only to have the same thing happen.

When I found this at a local yard sale I grabbed it immediately. I don’t actually remember how much it was – 1 or 2 dollars. I thought that was a bit steep but I took it anyway.

I use this to grate cheese on pizza, beets and carrots for soup, chili and salad.

The large holes grate things quickly. That’s why it saves time when you are making food. It also helps reduce cutting yourself with knives, which I have been known to do.

I don’t think there is anything toxic about these older graters. If anyone knows anything please let me know. This one is not rusty.

Check out my video description if you feel like it below:

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.

 

 

DIY Dog Bathtub

When I first started grooming dogs 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 what I was bathing their dog in!

My first dog grooming bath tub was a true DIY. We purchased a livestock tub at a farm store in the city an hour away and used it just as it was, with a hole cut out of the bottom for a drain. We put it on a homemade wooden stand and I lifted the dogs into the tub to bath them. This worked perfectly for quite a while.

Then one day we were driving around town and we passed by a cottage that had an old apartment sized metal bathtub sitting at the roadside. We took a closer look at it and decided it would replace our DIY tub. The DIY tub got put aside in the wood/junk pile.

WE NEED THAT TUB!

When we got our new dog – Ira – a Kuvasz, I knew eventually I would have to have a tub lower to the ground.  At 5 months of age he was 55lbs and I couldn’t lift him into the high bathtub was using for grooming smaller dogs anymore by myself. So we made some modifications to the DIY trough bathtub so I could use it on a low grooming table that Ernie refashioned. The low table was originally a piece of 3/4 inch plywood with rubber matting on top with full length folding legs. To make it shorter, Ernie had to remove the folding feature of the legs, but it worked perfectly.

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Ira on the low table getting used to being brushed. You can see the higher bathtub that we found on the side of the road in the background.

The modifications

The tub needs to sit on some kind of stand or table. I also needed it low enough for the big dog to easily get into it.

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. He wouldn’t be able to hop over the lip of the tub and likely won’t want to either, so it had to be easy to get him in there.

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Ira learning to climb into the tub. You can see the yellow top of the step he is using.

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 or pail 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 underneath into the other tub and dump it down the drain.  During a groom for a big dog, you will have to dump the pail at least a couple of times if not more.

If you bath dogs a lot, it’s a good idea to put a catch over the drain to prevent too much hair from going down and plugging things up. As a pro groomer we are required by law to have that in place for our drains.

If you don’t have a drain for the water to go down, or a place to put a tub underneath, it could go out the bottom of the tub onto the ground. This isn’t very eco-friendly especially if you use dog shampoo. If possible, make sure it goes into a manhole or sewer drain (which still isn’t perfect) but can be used if absolutely necessary.

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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 without 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

The Village Homesteader

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.