Monday, January 14, 2019

Homesteading In the City?

I get it, not everyone is fortunate enough to live on a huge spread of countryside. Some are still toiling away in the city as they save up to break away. Never fear, it is possible to attain some level of self-sufficiency and sustainability while living in the concrete jungle. Here are a few helpful and handy tips for living a more homestead style life wherever you call home.

1. Waste Not, Want Not
That phrase has been drilled into my head by both my grandmothers and my great-grandmothers since childhood. Start teaching yourself to make things stretch. We save everything. Clothing can be recycled not only into cute quilts for the bed but also dog toys, curtains, tablecloths, or altered into something you can still wear. Our favorite quilt was pieced together by my boyfriend's grandmother years ago from old jeans. We refer to it as the "perfect" quilt because it always seems to be the perfect temperature. We also save old buttons and zippers for future projects. You are probably tired of being told that leftovers can be transformed into other meals. I will admit I don't do a lot of this. We are big on meal prepping in this house and tend to eat what we make. My neighbor, however, is a master of repurposing leftovers. We joke that she will turn anything into a soup, or a potpie. It is always delicious. Don't be afraid to experiment with your leftovers.

2. Grow Your Own
A warm sunny windowsill is all you need to grow a bountiful harvest of microgreens and fresh herbs. A small patio filled with containers can yield enough produce for a small family. Use your verticle space, hanging planters maximize your growing space. If you are particularly adventurous you can raise indoor animals that will provide your family with food, people have indoor quail, chicks and ducks. This isn't something I would do, but I know others who do. We have a variety of indoor pets, 2 dogs, some cute parakeets and conures and an angora rabbit, but I think I draw the line there. No house chickens for me.

3. Garden Allotments
When my dad was young my grandfather took a job in a city both grandparents still wanted and needed the food freedom that a garden allowed but their little yard in the city wasn't enough to sustain their large family and put away enough for the winter months. My grandparents turned to renting a plot of farmland. This is still an option today. Many cities have also become home to P-Patches or community gardens where you can have a plot to plant fruits and veggies in. Last summer when my sister and I did our East Coast tour we visited Baltimore. We were both pleasantly surprised to see so many community gardens in the city. Food freedom in areas that otherwise would be a food desert.

4. Fiber Art
Fiber rabbits are a great homesteading animal that can be apartment or city friendly. My house rabbit Jean Pierre is litter box trained and takes up very little space. His hair grows long is sought after by fiber artists. You can easily harvest fiber, spin and dye it yourself in a small space. Something I plan on experimenting with this year is soap making and using felted wool from Jean Pierre to cover the bars of soap.

The goal of homesteading should always be to be self-sufficient and self-sustaining anything that brings you closer to those goals is a good thing.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Free or Cheap Homesteading Items

Not all homesteaders luck into inheriting a fully functional homestead with all the essentials. Depending on your homesteading goals there may be items you need or want in order to fulfill your homesteading goals. Buying things brand new can be cost prohibitive, with some items it may be nearly impossible to find what you want still in production.

We posted earlier on a good deal we got on our bee supplies, $600 for enough hives and frames to last us through several expansions. Sometimes the best way to get free or cheap items is just being in the right place at the right time. The Wanderers mom keeping an eagle eye out on Buy/Sell/Trade groups definitely worked out in our favor. Join as many groups on Facebook geared to buying and selling that you can, and actually monitor those groups. When someone posts something you know you want or need jump on it fast before someone else beats you to it. The competition in some of these groups can be fierce. We join groups for hobbies and activities we
currently, have and hobbies and activities we know we want to get involved with in the future.

Also on Facebook, watch the Facebook marketplace. We recently purchased a ton of tools, a wood lathe, various sanders, table saws, an anvil and a forge/blower. We initially found the guy on facebook marketplace because he was selling a planner and a joiner, when we went to pick up the planner and joiner we noticed the forge and how many packed outbuildings he had so we worked the connection. We expressed interest in the forge and told him that we were also in the market for a variety of other tools/equipment. Within a few weeks, he was calling us wanting to sell a bunch of other items. Express interest, let sellers know you have money and are willing to buy. All in all, we ended up spending way less than $100 for each big item we purchased from this contact, and he threw in a ton of small hand tools. The anvil was covered in thick layers of silver paint, when stripped clean we discovered it is a Hay Budden and weighs 130 pounds.

Estate Sales! We love estate sales and have purchased many many items from them over the years. Most estate sales will have sales on the last day, some will even mark things down 75% during the last hour of the sale. lists all estate sales in your area, and many have pictures of items that will be in the sale. We scope out the sale through the website and then decide on our "action plan" for sale day. If there are things we want or need that we know will sell fast we try to make it to the sale within the first hour or so that it is open. Sometimes we will split up and head to 2 different spots in the house for the sale. The Wanderer will check out the garage and "man spaces" while I hit the sewing/craft room and closets and then we will sweep through the house together looking for items we need or want.

Auctions. This is a new one for us, we very recently started attending auctions. We ended up bidding on and winning a portable air conditioner for the garage, we won it in a lot with a desk and vanity for $7.50, yep 7 dollars and 50 cents. The very next week our HVAC went out in the house and we ended up using the portable ac to keep the house reasonably cool until we could get the HVAC fixed.

Craigslist has a section for Free items, this is usually curb alerts. People who are getting rid of things from their house so they just dump it on the curb for someone to scoop up and take home. I know a fairly successful "flipper" who goes out several times a month to pick up curb items to refurbish and sale. If local laws allow it you can also check dumpsters for discarded items that are still useful.

Friday, June 22, 2018

So You Think You Want Bees?

We have had bees for a few weeks at this point, after years of talking about them, planning, discussion, changing plans. There are a few tips I have for anyone who thinks they may want to get bees.

Tip #1, Get bee's, seriously they are a wonderful resource to add to your homestead. Do not let all the scary bad stuff you will read online discourage you. Yes, it can be hard work, you may struggle with diseases, mites, and all manner of catastrophe but it is worth it. The rest of my tips are aimed to hopefully make it a bit easier for you.

Tip #2, Join a local beekeepers club. Call your county extension agent, contact your state beekeeping association to find an organization that meets near you. When we finally decided to get bees and joined a group the closest bee group was the next county over from us, just a short drive for monthly meetings and we have found a wealth of support and information. Many groups will also have equipment like honey extractors that you can rent and may be able to get you substantial discounts on your first nucleus colonies of bees. We learn something new at every single meeting we attend.

Tip #3, YouTube can be your best friend and worst enemy. We posted the videos of our installs on youtube. We have also watched countless hours of video on everything from different hive designs, to how to kill off all your bees (sometimes that is necessary). We have watched more videos on how to install your bees, and how to catch swarms than I can count. Sometimes we get sucked into the rabbit hole of videos. We have watched lectures from some of the best beekeepers from around the world, and we have watched a lot of videos that made us want to hang it up before we even started. One guy pretty much assured everyone that all their bees were going to die, everything was going to die and that was just how it was. We also have gotten hours of entertainment from the Bush Bee Man.

Tip #4 Books, books, and more books! We are big readers, I cannot recommend enough finding copies of Backyard Beekeeper, the Beekeepers Handbook, and the Beekeepers Bible. Great reads. Backyard Beekeeper was actually our first official foray into bees, we both devoured that book and knew that we were making the right call in adding bees to our little homestead.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Busy Bee's

Way back in February of this year I made a post about adding bees to the homestead. Over the past few months, plans have been made and changed a few different times. We researched hive designs, settled on a few we liked and bought materials. We even made a few hive bodies. We cost wise it was definitely going to save us a few dollars per box and a few dollars does add up over time.
During this time we also joined a lot of bee groups on Facebook. A few of these groups were buy, sale, trade pages for bee equipment. Late one evening the Wanderers momma found a post by a guy who had decided to sell out of the hobby, he was getting rid of everything, about 8 complete hives (no bees), a 6 frame extractor, smoker, suit, and tons of assorted beekeeping tools. Arrangements were made and the Wanderer and I loaded up the truck and took off early the next morning for North Carolina, a good 250 mile, 5 hour trip from our homestead in the hills of Kentucky. The man lives in the orchard area of North Carolina, a stone's throw from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm, where most of his equipment came from. It took us almost an hour using our Tetris honed skills to load each item into the bed of the Dodge Dakota, but we made it fit. This was officially the trucks furthest trip from the homestead.

Looking over the hives we realized quickly why he lost all his bees, he had pretty serious mite and wax moth infestations. When we got everything home we took metal paint scrapers and cleaned each piece, then tossed them in a deep freezer to ensure that everything bad was killed off.

Now we just needed to find some bees. Did we want to go with packages, nucs, wild-caught swarms? We decided we needed help and guidance so we joined a local beekeepers club and found out that a member sold nucs, we put our order in for 2 nucs (nucleus colony).

We filmed our first bee install. Did I just say first? Yep. Because a week after we picked up nuc's 1 and 2 we decided we wanted a 3rd so we bought another nuc.

Initially when we decided we wanted bees we thought we were going to put them up on the hill, somewhere near our barn. Then we started seeing so many people having great results with bug/mite management by allowing chickens to free range around their hives. We have placed our hives inside our chicken and duck lot.

Starting the smoker
First Inspection

Bees at the entrance
The 3 Hives set up. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Don't Be A Homestead If...

If you spend much time on homesteading facebook pages, or youtube channels you have come across a few posts like that. I understand there is currently some drama on homesteading youtube due to an off-handed comment by a YouTuber. Some Don't be a homesteader comment that I have read recently:

Don't be a homesteader if you like to shop...Hmm I like to shop, I live 20 minutes from town and over an hour from decent shopping. But I have the power of internet shopping at my fingertips.

Don't be a homesteader if you like to wear makeup...I have a decent collection of makeup and enjoy getting dolled up from time to time. Is makeup part of my daily routine? Nope, but I can slap on war paint with the best of them. When recording videos for my podcast's youtube channel I like to look nice.

Don't be a homesteader if you don't like the smell of animals...Animals are stinky do I enjoy the smell? Nope, but I understand it is part of this life and I deal with it. You don't have to love every aspect of homesteading to be a successful homesteader.

Don't be a homesteader if you are a thug...What?

Don't be a homesteader if you are attached to your cell phone...I have all the worlds knowledge in my back pocket, of course, I am going to use it. I have used my phone to diagnose animals, to text my vet, and to find the nearest feed store that has the meds/tools/whatever that I need. The Wanderer plugs his headphones into his phone and listens to podcasts or music while working on chores

Don't be a homesteader if you are going to run your pets to the vet all the time....My animals deserve proper medical care. End of discussion.

Don't be a homesteader if you have trash pick up...We live in an area with trash pick up, so we use it. We work hard at eliminating waste as much as possible, we try to recycle, reuse and we compost.

Don't be a homesteader if you have to use fabric softener....the Wanderer will be so mad when I tell him we have to throw out of the bottle of Downy.

I could go on and on, because these posts go on and on, hundreds of comments. So how about this, let's not be so judgemental of our fellow homesteaders. We are all at different parts of the journey and we are all bringing our on strengths to the table.  We all have different goals. Don't be a homesteader if you know this life isn't for you if you don't find it rewarding if it is not your calling in life. Don't be a homesteader if you don't want to be.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Should YOU start a blog, podcast, youtube?

Blogging, podcasting, youtube seem to be all the rage lately, especially among the homesteading community. I follow several homestead podcasts and youtube channels. I do not follow as many blogs. It is much easier for me to turn on a video and watch it while doing something else, or turn on a podcast while driving to town. I love blogs, I love reading blogs, I wish I had the time to do both.

So should you add one or more of these to your already busy homesteading life? Do you have something to share? Of course, you do. One of the benefits of the homesteading community is that we all have our strengths and weaknesses and we can all learn from each other. Beekeeping videos posted by fellow homesteaders has become our current obsession. There is no 1 right way to live this lifestyle, everyone's voice and experience are important and beneficial.

But do you have the time? Time is money after all. Blogging can take at the minimum a few hours every week to write a single new post. The podcast I record weekly with my sister (Haunted Family Podcast) Takes at least 2 hours just to record a single hour-ish long episode, that doesn't take into account the time we spend each week researching our episode. we have now added a youtube channel. Most of our youtube videos are just auto uploads of our latest podcast episode. Finding the time for us to get together and record a video is difficult, especially since we live over an hour away from each other.

You will also need equipment for youtube or podcasting that you would not need for blogging. We record on a budget, my sister uses a Blu Snowball microphone and I use a condenser microphone with boom arm that I found on eBay. We use Skype and Audacity for recording. Currently, our Youtube videos are recorded on either a cell phone (iPhone 8) or my Canon Powershot. We need to upgrade soon and that is an added cost.

Don't let the cost or time commitment scare you away. If this is something you have been considering then make that leap. You will not regret it. Your story needs to be heard.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Whats the buzz? Adding bee's to the homestead

We were supposed to take this leap last year, but things got in the way (sewing shop and the rental house needed new roofs). This year we are finally doing it. Bee supplies have already been ordered, we are on a waiting list for bees from a local source and the ol farm truck is loaded down with lumber we will use to build our stands. Yep, we are building our own beehives. We hope to bring you along for the journey through pictures and maybe a few videos on youtube.

We are hoping the fresh, local to our farm honey will help offset some of our seasonal allergies. When the lilacs are in bloom I am miserable and nearly bedridden even when taking a Zyrtec daily.

We are also hoping to add a homemade wax based thread conditioner to our etsy shop. We love good thread conditioner, but it is getting harder to find.

As I have mentioned before I do historical reenacting, the fresh, natural wax may come into play at some events. I would love to get into candle making.

Honey is super tasty, raw local honey is even better. But it can be hard to find local honey. The few local suppliers we have tend to sell out fast. Honey shipped in from other areas lack the benefits of local honey. We use a lot of honey in recipes and baking. A neighbor was visiting the other day and the topic of us getting bees came up. She was saying how much she hates the taste of honey and won't eat anything that has honey in it. It was then I had to break the new to her that those wonderful rolls I bring her so often that she raves about have honey in them, a lot of honey.

I can't wait to bring you all along on this journey as we become beeks. My great great grandfather raised bees, one of my uncles use to raise bees, I feel as if I am carrying on a family tradition and helping save some pretty important pollinators.