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Month: February 2017

Great Homesteading Podcasts

Great Homesteading Podcasts

I just wanted to take a moment and share with you the 3 homesteading podcasts that I listen to. These podcasts have provided me with so much knowledge and I wanted to make sure you guys knew they were out there.

Modern Homesteading Podcast

http://smalltownhomestead.com/modern-homesteading-podcast

The Modern Homesteading Podcast is a weekly podcast produced by Harold Thornbro. This was the first homesteading related podcast that I started listening to and I was hooked instantly. Harold has a variety of show formats that he uses ranging from interviews with other homesteaders to Q&A about various homesteading topics.

What I love most about this podcast is that he always reiterates how you don’t need 10 acres to start homesteading, but rather you can start homesteading right where you are today. He practices what he preaches by always giving examples of all the wonderful things he is doing on his 1/10th acre lot in Indiana.

Self-Sufficient Life Podcast

http://www.theselfsufficientlife.com/self-sufficient-life-podcast

The Self-Sufficient Life Podcast is a weekly podcast produced by Tim Young. I eagerly awake for his new episodes to pop into my podcast queue as they are always chalk full of great information. Tim and his wife Liz opted out of the rat race a few years back, started a farming business in Georgia, and have since moved out onto their homestead where this podcast in produced.

The episodes in this podcast were initially interviews that Tim narrates from other homesteaders who have opted out of corporate America and started pursuing their homesteading dreams. His last handful of episodes were about about their personal reasons for starting to homestead, their criteria for their homestead property, why they chose homeschooling, and much more. Definitely a great podcast to listen to, I highly recommend it.

Featured Voices

https://www.peakprosperity.com/featuredvoice

Featured Voices is a weekly podcast produced by Chris┬áMartenson. I can’t recall where I originally discovered this podcast, but I’ve been listening to it for the last couple of months now and it has been an eye-opener. This podcast isn’t directly about homesteading, but provides can’t live without information that homesteaders should be aware of.

In his podcast, Chris interviews extremely knowledgeable people who chat about the environment, economy and energy. The main premise behind this podcast is how to be prepared and how to prosper when these main areas of our world (environment, energy, economy), which are extremely fragile, start to fail. Like I said, it has been an eye-opener and it gets you thinking about topics that you may not have considered as you pursue your homesteading dreams.

So there you have it, those are the top 3 podcasts that I thoroughly enjoy and have gained great knowledge from. I hope you guys can check them out and if you have any podcasts that you recommend, please leave them in the comments below.

Until next time, God Bless and Happy Homesteading!

Andrew & Maria

Meet Chip, Our Homestead Rabbit

Meet Chip, Our Homestead Rabbit

Meet Chip, our homestead rabbit! She is the first furry friend that we had on our homestead ­čÖé

Chip hanging out in her cage.
Chip hanging out in her cage.

About a year and a half or so ago a neighbor of ours had a rabbit hutch that they no longer needed so we graciously took it off their hands. With a rabbit hutch but no rabbit, we went to Facebook and asked if anyone had an extra rabbit, and a couple of days later, we had a new rabbit! She was about a year old when we got her, so she is about 2.5 years old now.

The rabbit started off as a pet for the children, and they named her “Chip”, or “Chippy”. Without really knowing it, Chip kind of helped push us along our homesteading dream in way. She was the first animal that we had to take care of, and she provided good manure that we could use in our compost and garden!

So we’ve had her for about a year now and we have just keep her outside year-round. We live in southwest Ohio so in the summer months it can get pretty hot, so we have her in a nice shaded spot to keep her cool. In the winter months, especially this past winter, it didn’t get too cold, only a few days below 20 degrees, so she did just fine outside. Most nice days when we are outside we let her out of her hutch and have a small fenced in area in the yard where she can run around.

Chip hanging out in the yard.
Chip hanging out in the yard.

Feeding Chip

We feed her rabbit pellets and mix that in with a variety of vegetables – carrots, lettuce, and cabbage. Also, when she is out her hutch in the yard, she’ll eat a lot of the grasses and various things that she finds.

Chip and the Children

Having Chip around has also helped us introduce our children more to homesteading. They love petting her and being around her, and Chip enjoys their company as well. They’ll also help us scoop up her poop that falls below her hutch. We’ll explain to them how we can use her waste to help provide good nutrients to the soil to help the garden grow better. They are boys, so they don’t mind scooping up the poop ­čÖé

Chip has been a great addition to our homestead and we enjoy having her. We’ve learned that rabbits are social creatures and we’ve talked about getting her a friend. We have also thought about breeding them and possibly one day even breeding them for meat and/or sale. When you’re a homesteader, the possibilities are endless!

Until next time, God Bless and Happy Homesteading!

Andrew & Maria

Budgeting on the Homestead

Budgeting on the Homestead

Homesteading isn’t for those who want to be rich in money, but knowing where your money is going and how it is working for you is an essential skill to have.

Like many of you who may be reading this post, the main thing that is currently holding us back from homesteading (100%) is money. Money can be considered the root of all evil, but these days, it is required. To help us better understand where our money is coming from and what our money is doing, we started budgeting.

When we first started out budgeting, which was about 2 years ago now, we tried a couple of different methods. We tried using spreadsheets, we tried used a variety of apps, we even tried putting money in envelops for different expenditures. What ended up working out the best for us is a website/app called YNAB (You Need a Budget).

YNAB

For my wife and I, YNAB is what has worked the best for us. They have made a great piece of software that is very easy to use. The program and the whole methodology is based around these 4 rules –

  1. Give Every Dollar a Job
  2. Embrace Your True Expenses
  3. Roll with the Punches
  4. Age Your Money

Accounts and Spending Categories

The program allows you go in and setup all of your income sources and accounts, and then you go and create your budget. You can customize the budget anyway that you need to. The way that it works is that you setup various spending categories (Bills, Groceries, Giving, Savings Goals, etc.), and then assign a dollar amount to that category for each month. It is very straightforward and you can see exactly how your money is being spent each month.

Recording Purchases

So now where this tool becomes very effective is through the use of the app that accompanies the program. When you make a purchase, from your smartphone, you can record the Payee, the dollar amount, the account the money is coming from, and what category it belongs to. This way, your budget is always up to date. This also works very well for my wife and I as we can share the account and both use the app and follow the same budget. We always know where our money is going and we can easily plan for future expenses.

You can try YNAB free for 34 days –┬áhttps://www.youneedabudget.com

Like anything, there are a ton of websites/apps out there, but this is the one that has worked best for us. We are budgeting so that we can better follow our homesteading dream. We are working to pay off our mortgage so that we can have a little more monetary freedom so that we can pursue all areas of homesteading!

Until next time, God Bless and Happy Homesteading!

Andrew & Maria

Identifying Our Dependencies on Other Stuff

Identifying Our Dependencies on Other Stuff

In this third and final post of the series “Identifying Our Dependencies”, I’m going to touch on the other parts of life that we are dependent on and how we plan to break free from them.

Animal Feed

Rabbit

We currently have one rabbit but we plan on getting more. Rabbits produce great manure for the compost and they are great pets for the kids. Additionally down the road we have started looking into raising rabbits for meat. With that said, rabbit food, just for our one rabbit can get pretty expensive! We currently buy it rabbit pellets to eat but we want to start giving the rabbit more organic food to eat. We plan to feed it a lot more vegetables that we produce ourselves as well other feed that is produced by us.

Chickens

The plan is to get chickens in the spring and the chicken coop build is currently underway. After doing just a little research we have found out that chicken feed, let alone organic chicken feed, can be quite pricey! We haven’t gotten around to doing a lot of research quite yet, but just like for the rabbits, we want to start creating our own chicken feed as well.

Schooling

As you may know, we have 3 young boys, ages 5, 3 and 1, and we have a new baby due in a few months, a GIRL! We chose to homeschool our children for multiple reasons, which we will go into more in another post. By homeschooling our children we are able to be less dependent on the system, on schedules, and whole lot more!

Home Repairs

When something breaks around the house, either the water heater, the boiler, the pool, etc., there is nothing worse than having to call someone to repair it for you! Having someone else do it for you will cost you twice as much! I’d imagine that everyone by now has heard of YouTube, instead of just having funny cat videos, it has videos on how to repair pretty much anything! In the past couple of years we have been pretty good at trying to fix things ourselves, but we want to get better and we are trying to depend on service technicians less and less.

Vehicles

Talk about money holes, vehicles are near the top of the list! We currently have 2 vehicles, a commuter car, and a van to transport the whole family around. I would love for us to be able to get down to 1 vehicle, but I’m not sure if that would happen, unless of course we were able to start a home business where we wouldn’t have to leave the house for work (more on that below). However, whether we have 1 vehicle, or 2 vehicles, one of the best ways that we can save money and become less dependent on the system, is to do the repairs ourselves. This is an area that is going to require a lot of learning and hard work, but it’s definitely possible.

Money

moneyAnd money, yeah that green stuff, the root of all evil. Unfortunately these days everyone needs money, it’s just the way it works. My wife and I both currently work, my wife part-time and myself full-time. Working takes away from so much family time that it should be considered a crime. We’ve been tossing around some ideas for the last couple of years of how we could both stop working and start some sort of home business, but we’re not quite there. Thinking about the possibility of us both working from home, including the whole family in the business, just seems like the perfect scenario. We will continue to purse what opportunities we have as we follow our homesteading dream and will be sure to update you as progress is made!

Well we hope this series was beneficial for you, I know it was for us. Listing out these main areas of life that we are currently dependent on certainly was an eye-opener. I’m sure a lot of you can relate to a lot of the things that we had listed out, and if you have any tips you could provide us, please leave them in the comments below!

Until next time, God Bless and Happy Homesteading!

Andrew & Maria

Identifying Our Dependencies on Household Items

Identifying Our Dependencies on Household Items

In this second post of the series “Identifying Our Dependencies”, I am going to focus on some of the common household items that we use and how we plan to be less dependent on them.

Household Items

cleaning chemicalsWe were finally hit by the stick and started to realize all of the bad chemicals that are in most of the household items that we use on a daily basis. The area of household items seems like it would be an easy quick win for us, so let me break down some of the things that we are trying to do.

Not only are we concerned about all of the harmful chemicals in a lot of these products, but the cost of them are outrageous! In order to become homesteaders, we need to become more frugal and start producing more than consuming.

Body Soap

For as long as I can remember, I’ve used Irish Spring as my bar soap of choice. Once I started looking into making our own soap, I started to realize that it doesn’t seem to hard. Be on the look out for some posts on my adventures with cold process soap making in the near future.

Hand Soap

Same with hand soap, there is a lot of bad chemicals in here that we don’t want our family exposed to so we hope to start making our own hand soap. Currently we buy all of our soap at the store but we really want to get away from that.

Toothpaste

I’m not too sure about making our own toothpaste as I have never looked into it. We currently buy name brand toothpaste from the store and would also like to get away from that. We might look into some of the organic type of toothpaste out there before attempting to make our own.

Shampoo

As I get older, I’m starting to lose more and more hair. I’m not sure if this is from the shampoo or what, but I blame the shampoo. After doing a little research, making your own shampoo doesn’t seem too difficult, and is something we would like to start doing. The less things to buy from the store, the better ­čÖé

Laundry Detergent

Each and everyday, we are in closest contact with our clothes. I’m not exactly sure what chemicals are in store bought laundry detergent, but I’m sure it’s not good, especially since it’s rubbing against you all day long. We hope to start making our own powdered laundry soap, so that we know exactly what’s in there.

Paper Towels

Paper towels are a tough one, they come in handy in so many situations, but they cost so much! We plan to start to ease our dependence away from paper towels and try and use clothes/rags instead. In the situations where clothes/rags wouldn’t really work, such as with bacon grease, we plan to start using newspaper!

Toilet Paper

Toilet paper is one of those things that just might not be able to be avoided. I mean yeah, you can use a leaf, but no, just no. Since getting away from buying toilet paper probably isn’t going to happen, we’re just going to stock up on it so that we don’t have to buy it as often. Buy in bulk and use coupons on it and you should be able to get a really good deal.

So there you have it, those are some of the common household items that we are trying to be less dependent on. If you have any tips, tricks, or suggestions, please leave them in the comments below!

Until next time, God Bless and Happy Homesteading!

Andrew & Maria

Identifying Our Dependencies on Food

Identifying Our Dependencies on Food

As we begin to travel down the road towards our homesteading dream we thought it would be a good idea to list out the dependencies we have on things. We are beginning to think of ways to be less dependent on things and to become more self-sufficient.

This is the first post in a series of posts where we will go through the main areas of our lives as we strive to simplify them.

Food

We currently make at least one trip a week to the grocery store, but we are in the process of trying to cut that back to twice a month. Below are the most common items that we buy, and ways that we are trying to be less dependent on the grocery store with them.

Milk

Milk CanIt would be nice to have a cow or a goat to provide our milk, but where we live that is not possible. For the time being, we’ll continue to buy milk from the store.

Eggs

Our family goes through a lot of eggs, almost 3 dozen a week. We are in the process of building a chicken coop and then we will be getting some chickens to produce our eggs!

Cheese

Until we are able to produce/get raw milk, we’ll continue to have to buy cheese from the store. We do want to start shopping at our local farmers market, so maybe we’ll be able to buy cheese there.

Bread

We hardly ever buy bread at store anymore, as we typically make 2 loafs every week or so. We do want to start making our buns though.

Chicken

cooked chickenWhere we live we are not allowed to butcher our chickens, so we are stuck with either buying them from the store, or the farmer’s market.

Meat

In the past we have bought a quarter of a cow from a local farm, and that was great. We need to look into doing that again until we can raise our own animals. I also want to take up hunting, as our family loves the taste of deer meat.

Fruit

We currently buy most of our fruit from the grocery store, but would like to start buying it at the farmers market where we can. We would also like to plant some fruit trees, but we’re not sure how long we are going to be at this location.

Vegetables

VeggiesFor the last couple of years we have had a small garden which has produced some of our veggies, but not all of them. This year we hope to double our yield from last year, especially with tomatoes. For the veggies that we are not able to grow, we hope to buy them from the farmer’s market and can them so we can have real veggies all year.

Nuts

Like the fruit trees, we’d love to plant some nut trees, but we’re hoping to move to a larger piece of land in a few years (maybe). We may plant some regardless, at least to benefit the people who come after us.

As you see, we have a lot of work to do! These are just some of the food items that we buy, but they are the big ones that we want to focus on first.

In the next post we are going to focus on some of the household items that we want to start making ourselves.

Until next time, God Bless and Happy Homesteading!

Andrew & Maria

A Digitally Organized Homestead

A Digitally Organized Homestead

Howdy Homestead Dreamers, we hope you are doing well!

Being organized is something that we can all improve on. In this post I want to share the ways that we have become more digitally organized on the homestead.

Managing Digital and Physical Photos

Like us, I’m sure everyone has 1 million photos, digital and physical, of pretty much anything and everything. With smartphones these days, it just too easy to snap photos. With the ease of snapping photos, the problem arises when it comes to the question of “what the heck am I going to do with all of these photos?”

What To Do with Physical Photos

photographsWe have found that with the physical photos, it’s better to scan them and import them into whatever photo program you are using (more on that in a minute). Physical photos can come at you from all directions – family, friends, coworkers, photo albums, etc. Before you know it, there can be stacks of photos everywhere, cluttering both your mind and your space.

Scanning your physical photos is the solution. Yes this is going to be a time-consuming activity, but it’s going to be well worth the effort. If you have a smartphone, there are a ton of scanning apps out there on the market that will make this a cinch, we recommend PhotoScan by Google┬á(free). If you don’t have a smartphone, a regular desktop scanner will do the trick, although this will take a lot more time. Additionally, if you don’t have a scanner, we would recommend the┬áEpson Perfection V600 Color Photo scanner, as this takes an excellent scan of both photos and documents.

What To Do with Digital Photos

As I had mentioned earlier, smartphones have made it super easy to take tons of photos quickly, but you’ll soon find that they’ll use up your phone’s storage very quickly. There are a ton of services out there that will help you solve this problem including Dropbox, Google Photos, iCloud Photos, Amazon Photos and many more. Over the years we have tried out pretty much all of these services, and what we currently use and recommend are a Dropbox/Google Photos combination.

All of the services listed above have their pros and cons but we use a Dropbox/Google Photos combination because we have found that it works best for us. Both of these services will automatically upload your photos off your smartphone and back them up for you. The way we currently have it setup is that we use Dropbox, which is a service we pay for, for the permanent home of all of our original quality photos. Dropbox is a solid service which has excellent syncing capabilities and the best reliability. We also use Google Photos in combination with Dropbox for a couple of reasons. Google Photos will also automatically upload your photos from your phone, and will do it for free, but not at their original quality. This is okay for us since we use Dropbox to store the originals at full quality. Google Photos offers excellent facial recognition of photos, makes it easy to quickly organize your photos into albums and videos, and makes it super to easy to share photos with family and friends.

No matter which service you choose to go with for your digital photos, we do recommend at least going with one of them so that your photos are backed up securely.

Organizing Your Digital Photos

Now that all of your photos are safely backed up off of your phone and all of your physical photos have been scanned digitally, you’ll want to make sure you have a good system in place to keep them organized. The first thing I would recommend would be to have a good naming convention for your photos. What I have found works best is to name them in the format Year-Month-Day-Time. Some services, such as Dropbox, do this automatically for you as it uploads them from your phone which is just one less thing for you to do.

The next thing you’ll want to consider is your folder structure that you want to use for your photos so that’ll you’ll know where to find them. We use the following structure which has worked pretty good for us the last couple of years.

  • Around the House
  • Birthdays
  • Children
  • Events & Places
  • Holidays
  • Misc
  • School
  • Trips
  • Weddings
  • Work

So there you have it, organized digital photos! To quickly sum up this section, as it got pretty lengthy, here are the quick takeaways.

  • Scan your physical photos (and upload to the online service of your choosing).
  • Subscribe to a service that will automatically upload the photos from your smartphone.
  • Ensure you have convention for you photos in place and use it consistently.
  • Have a good folder struture in place and use it consistently.

Reducing Paper Clutter

stack of papersAs with photos, staying on top of all of the papers floating around your homestead is a must and will help you feel much more organized. For us, pretty much any paper that comes into house, gets scanned and then organized and backed up into Dropbox (all of the services listed above also allow you to store documents as well). Instead of filing cabinets in our house, we have folders in Dropbox where all of these documents are stored. For the majority of our bills and the like, we have switched over to receive electronic versions instead of paper, which makes it simple to save right into it’s designated folder. Try and set aside some time each week to scan documents so that you can have a more paper-free homestead! ­čÖé

Organizing Your Digital Life

Whether you choose to scan/upload your photos, documents, or both, it’s important to remember that having a good naming convention and a good folder structure is a must. Just like anything, if you don’t keep up with this organization, it will soon become a mess, but if you spend just a little bit time each week maintaining it, you’ll be a lot more better off.

With any online service, it’s also important to mention that although uploading them to the internet is a good way to back up your photos and documents, what if something happens to that online service? You’ll always want to ensure you have a backup of all your files both locally, either on your computer or on an external hard drive, as well as backed up online.

We hope that this article has given you some ideas of how you digitally organize your homestead! If you have any questions or comments, you can either email us or leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

Until next time, God Bless and Happy Homesteading!

Andrew & Maria