Modern Homesteading, Rural Living, Off-Grid, Generators
Maybe you are thinking of changing your surroundings. Many people seek a more rural lifestyle. Perhaps you’ve already made that change. Either way, our goal in homesteading today is to enable you to learn about and pursue a more sustainable existence. Whether you’re from the city or suburbs, we’ll help you along the way on your homesteading journey.
Learn along with us as we share tips, ideas, and stories of real people making their homesteading dreams come true. We offer firsthand experience about homesteading, livestock, sustainability, prepping, survival, renewable energy, gardening, and personal finance.
We are an extended family that dreamed for many years of living a more outdoor-oriented, simpler and quieter lifestyle. Several years ago, we bought an old homestead farm we now call home. Three generations work and play together, learning to be more self-sufficient, developing a more sustainable lifestyle. We consider ourselves true homesteaders.
Our goal is to encourage others who are transitioning to a rural existence or who are already homesteading.
Have you been thinking that now is a good time to learn more about sustainable living? It’s time for all of us to become more self-sufficient. There are many ways, to become less dependent on outside sources of food, household products, and other goods and services. Why the emphasis on sustainability and self-sufficiency? After all, many of us live where there is still plenty of everything.
There are many reasons to consider a more sustainable lifestyle. Many people want to be prepared for the “what if” scenarios, including economic uncertainty, shortages of food, and weather catastrophes, even droughts. Additionally, others dream of living off-the-grid. They want to be able to provide for their family with minimal reliance on outside sources. In addition, others enjoy sustainable living as a hobby. Some want to save money. Also, some want to be more eco-conscious and create less demand for commercial products.
Therefore, we offer information about cooking with a solar oven as well as choosing the best water filter. We even have information about toilets that compost. You’ll learn why it’s important to be sustainable and how your choices and habits matter. We offer tips about how to live affordably off-the-grid, including having a garden or orchard, and how to preserve fresh food.
In conclusion, you’ll find great ideas to get started on your path to sustainable living. You will learn about helpful products and best practices whether you are experienced or beginning.
And most homesteads can take advantage of both types of systems.
Or even combining systems so that the overflow of a built system becomes the source for a landscape system.
Rainwater Harvesting Systems Components
Rainwater harvesting systems use various components to best meet needs.
These components can be broken down into catchment surface, conveyance (gutters and downspouts), screens, first-flush, storage, water purification, and end use.
Catchment surface – area that the rainwater falls on to be captured.
Conveyance (gutters and downspouts) – transports the water from catchment to storage or use.
Screens – separates debris from the water.
First-flush – diverts the first, and dirtiest, portion of rainwater.
Storage – holds water for later use.
Purification – cleans the water to the needed level.
End use – gives purpose to the system!
You know your homestead better than anyone… often you can conduct a ‘water audit’ just on the back of an envelope.
If you are using the water for drinking, you will need more treatment than if you are using it for gardens.
If you are using it for cleaning (tools, grounds, equipment, etc.), then you won’t need any treatment.
It all depends on your needs and resources (e.g. do you only have seasonal need due to a seasonal creek).
The catchment volume is calculated from the precipitation falling on the collection area with some loss due to the efficiency of the collection materials (and leaks).
In addition, conversion factors are used to yield the desired units of volume.
Typically, monthly catchment values are calculated based on monthly average precipitation data.
The collection volume for any period of time is calculated using the following formula (mnemonic device Vrake):
Equation: Vrake – Rainwater harvesting potential.
V = Volume of collection in gal/time or m3/time or liters/time
Note that time is usually in months.
Use this to help determine potential yield and tank size.
R = Precipitation in inches/time or mm/time
Collect this data or find it from existing climate data.
A = Footprint of collection surface in ft2 or m2
This is the vertical projected area of the collection surface.
For a rectangular house, use length times width.
k = Needed conversion factors, such as 7.48 gal/ft3 or easier SI units
Can also combine the 1ft/12in conversion for the precipitation data here.
e = Efficiency of collection surface (which is unitless)
75 soil, 0.8 average, 0.95 metal
Another consideration is pressure.
Pressure is critical to moving water from where it is gathered or stored to where it will be used.
In a rainwater harvesting system, the water must be able to flow from catchment through the filters and conveyance into the first-flush and storage or end use.
This pressure can be provided by gravity from vertical height difference or by a pump.
As an idea of how much pressure you will need:
Typical US residential water pressure is between 40 to 80 psi (pounds per square inch); typical drip irrigation systems (and some micro-sprinklers) need between 15 to 25 psi; and some appropriate technology drip irrigation systems need only 4 to 10 psi.
In addition to flow from catchment to storage, the flow from storage to end use is critical.
Using the existing topography and/or platforms can often yield enough pressure for end use.
If necessary, a pump can be implemented to add sufficient pressure.
While utilizing a pump increases the pressure, it also increases the upfront and operational costs.
Gravity acting on the vertical height of the water column is what produces the pressure, which is also referred to as head.
Make sure not to confuse volume with pressure (head).
For instance, a 20-foot-tall water tower of 8000 gallons has the same water pressure as a 20-foot-tall pipe of 80 gallons.
If your homestead has varying topography, you want to catch and store the water at the high spots, and then use it in the low spots to provide enough pressure.
Otherwise a pump can be used to generate the needed pressure.
In a system we built in Eureka, California, we were able to change the existing local law to allow us to place the catchment tank where it made topological sense, without being restrained by set-back limits.
The Book – To Catch The Rain
All of this and much more is included in a new book on Rainwater Harvesting, titled To Catch the Rain.
Helping people get started with a garden, composting, rainwater harvesting, raising chickens, miniature cattle, solar, hydroponics, irrigation, beekeeping, etc.
Renting your farm equipment
How to pay the bills?
A number of RLT readers who are preparing for or considering a move to a rural property have asked us a very simple, yet important question: “How do you make a living and pay the bills?”
Some who are already living on their farms have a similar question: “How can we transition from outside employment to making our living on the farm?”
This one issue of finances can be a major barricade in our minds, stopping us from actually making the transition from an urban to a rural home or from leaving a secure job to spend more time on the farm.
With our series “Making Ends Meet on the Farm” we hope to at least start poking some holes in this barricade and give you some ideas so you and your family and can start seeing some real solutions to this issue.
Making Ends Meet on the Farm
A few years ago I lost a stable and longtime corporate salary due to job layoffs.
We were several years short of retirement age, but without another good job option available, we felt it was time to move full time to our rural property and get back to Green Living to Go Green.
Since then we’ve been making ends meet in a variety of ways.
And we’ve seen many others do the same.
Before I start with the specifics with some ideas on this, let me rewind in my own mind on the topic of financial security.
Our country is obsessed with security and insurance.
This is prevalent throughout our society.
Just consider all of your insurance bills.
Someone is always trying to get you to pay a little more for a bit more of whatever security they offer.
Yet when I look at who is making money off of this, it seems to me that it is the financial and insurance companies.
Just recently, I was hit with concurrent commercials about retirement while watching a playoff game (yes–I like football!).
The ads all essentially had the same message with different logos and company names.
The gist of the message is that to retire, you need to have this huge nest egg of investments (that’s what they were selling), and if you didn’t have it you just couldn’t retire. They used the fear card big time.
Essentially they were trying to get viewers to go down a road that has no ending.
They were also insinuating that those who didn’t follow their advice would not be taking care of themselves and their families financially.
One ad stated that you need to have approximately 80% of your normal income to be able to retire.
This is NOT true. One does NOT need that.
Essentially, these companies just want us all to keep doing what we do, so they can collect more and more fees from us.
They’re selling us.
If you doubt that, just look at all the beautiful buildings and offices they build for themselves.
But that is a game we don’t have to play, and I suspect you don’t want to play anymore.
Personally I am finished building their beautiful palaces for them with my dollars.
The fact remains, however, that we all have to make a living somehow.
That is a daily reality.
Making the daily commute, paying the bills, trying to save…often unsuccessfully.
And then, trying to figure out how to get ahead, pay for this emergency or that one, and put money away for college educations, retirement and the like.
Are you are really making any progress financially?
My gauge of success in answering this question is the difference between your savings account balance at the start of the year and the balance at the end of the year.
What does it say?
The good news is that we can stop playing the game!
Yes, it takes a lot of courage to do it.
But once you decide to take the red pill and go down the road of reality, you may be very surprised at what you find.
The truth is, there’s a new normal out there!
Not only has life in general changed a great deal in the past decade, but the job and income picture is not the same as it has been for a couple of generations.
On our journey we have made several discoveries and learned a lot from other families similar to ours.
Some of these new concepts have had a profound effect on our monthly budget requirements.
We will go into more detail in the coming “Making Ends Meet on the Farm” posts.
But for now we will leave with you one key concept that we have learned in our own experience and heard from many others.
Cost of living in the country is much less than that of living in a city or suburb.
The fact is, many of us project that we need to have as much income in the country as we need in the city or suburbia.
But this isn’t really true.
Think about it this way: have you seen what it costs to live in Manhattan or San Francisco in a small one- or two-bedroom apartment?
Normal rents there could easily be $3,000 to $5,000 per month.
Recently a large family that we know moved into our rural area.
They were from a nice suburb north of Seattle, in a neighborhood with standard sized residential lots.
They were leasing their suburban home, so it was easy to leave the area and make the move.
Their lease payment in the city was near $2,800 per month.
Not bad, especially compared to those apartments in the big cities!!
Out here they found a nearly equivalent rental house.
Nicer by some standards—with plenty of bedrooms and bathrooms and lots of land for the kids to play on.
The lease payment? $1,400 per month.
They couldn’t believe it.
And on top of the lower rent, they now have no sewer bill, water bill, storm drainage bill, or garbage bill (they go to the dump nearby).
This is an additional savings of nearly $500 per month.
Bottom line, this family’s budget has been reduced by half and they are just as comfortable as before, with plenty of room indoors and much more outdoor space for play and homesteading projects.
They even scored a cool tree house for the young adventurers and a nice greenhouse and fenced garden for Dad and Mom.
Do the math.
This family’s move to the country saved them $1,900 per month.
Now consider your budget
What if you were to save 50% on your monthly housing expenses?
Make your own analysis.
Even with just the two of us, Marie and I have a much smaller outgo to keep pace with our much smaller income.
Not only are our housing and utility bills much lower, but we spend more free and recreational time here on the farm, we put a lot less mileage on our vehicle and less gas in the tank, and we raise a lot of our own food.
Late addition: Reader Eileen left a comment on this post that we’ve decided to include right here in the post.
Another great story of how “more costs less.”
“I made the move 10 years ago and am living on 1/4 of what I made when I was working.
While I spent my savings to buy the property which is only one acre, my auto insurance was lower.
My homeowners insurance was also lower until Katrina and such raised insurance premiums all over.
My property tax bill is 1/4 of what I was paying.
I have a septic system and a garden and hope to have some chickens soon.
I have a larger house, more land space and less restrictions.
There are lots of trees.
Boy do I wish I had been able to do this when I was much younger and more able to work a larger spread and perhaps have cattle and horses.
“The first most amazing thing I noticed when I moved here was how many stars are really in the sky when there are no street lights to glare away the darkness.
Birds and wildlife to watch and enjoy.
I used to have deer walk through the garden to get to the birdbath during the drought period.
I think development and hunting have managed to drive them away.
“May I never have to go back to living in a congested city ever again.”
We don’t want to give you the impression that it’s real cheap to live in the country.
We won’t say that there won’t be unexpected expenses or challenges in balancing the budget.
But we do want you to know that a realistic evaluation of the costs and how you’re willing to meet them can make a big impact on your plans.
Don’t get stuck on the numbers in your present salary or income—or your current expense picture.
That’s like dwelling in the past. Instead, get real with what the future will cost!
Then you can plot your strategy—and we’ll do what we can to help.
Making Ends Meet on the Farm: Normal Redefined
Making Ends Meet on the Farm: Many of our readers have expressed a real concern that finances are a major hurdle to their hope and dream of moving to the country.
In our first post of this series, we focused on the fact that in most locations, the cost of living in the country is much less than that of living in a city or suburb.
Most often that cost differential is substantial.
We’ll take this into consideration as we consider a plan of action for moving to and living in the country.
Despite lower costs, it’s clear that most of us will still need to have some money coming in.
But it certainly is encouraging to know that perhaps the obstacle of HOW MUCH we need isn’t as large as we had imagined!
There are many, many different ways to make ends meet on the farm.
In coming posts we will be detailing some that we know of and that we and others are putting into practice.
But before we start, some thoughts about what used to be considered normal and an introduction to what we call the “new normal.”
Reduce Your Burn Rate to Get Off Treadmill of Debt
Reduce Your Burn Rate:
While creating multiple income streams is one path toward making ends meet, there’s another aspect that involves managing that income.
We call it “Reduce Your Burn Rate” of our money.
Today many of us live in a society that is based totally upon debt.
Debt created out of thin air, to be used by the government to finance our massive consumption addiction.
Additionally, debt is created to “help” us to contribute by buying more and more.
Even though we have no way to pay it back. Even though we really don’t need this.
Essentially, our economic system has been creating and fostering a race of “debt slaves.”
Those who have student loans, which cannot be forgiven even in bankruptcy, understand the burden this places on us.
We are taught to go into debt…and we are taught that it is a good thing.
Go into debt for your house, three cars, education, clothes, appliances, vacations–everything you want you should buy, because you “deserve” it.
But it is all a sham.
A Ponzi scheme to keep you in debt and under the control of your masters: the bankers and politicians who are the ones doing well in this system.
In fact, the only consideration is that you make all your monthly payments, because if you don’t, your credit will tank, the world will end for you, your firstborn will be taken as a sacrifice, and of course the all-important credit rating will take a big hit.
Some of our lawmakers want to have both SPENDING CUTS (reducing burn) and TAX INCREASES (providing more income).
Personally, in our own life we are looking for both a BURN RATE DECREASE and INCOME STREAM INCREASE.
So what can we all do to get out of this ‘rat race’?
How do we get off this treadmill that has no end in sight?
In our Making Ends Meet on the Farm series we’ve been exploring options for creating a rural lifestyle that serves us instead of us serving it.
Instead of CONSUMING MORE, or even continuing to consume as you have been, try changing your lifestyle and REDUCING YOUR FINANCIAL BURN RATE.
Sounds simple, right?
It is one of the secrets of making ends meet.
So why don’t we do it?
I suspect it is because we are constantly bombarded with the consumption message by all media, which is being shouted to keep a dying system alive.
I also suspect it is just “easier” for us to keep doing what we are doing.”
That is very normal human behavior.
But as we refuse to take part in that and resolve to change, this step alone will bring huge rewards.
It is tax free, and it is simple, but not easy.
It requires a real mindset adjustment, but it brings huge rewards.
Here are some simple steps to move in the right direction, and we would love to hear other ideas you might have that have helped you in this regard.
Get out of debt.
I mean all debt.
No more car loans, credit card debt, student debt, and ultimately mortgage debt.
There are plenty of programs to help you.
Stop talking and thinking about it and get started doing it.
Don’t by another thing on credit.
If you don’t have the cash, don’t buy it.
I would encourage you NOT to use your credit cards.
Usells your debit or pay cash.
I pay cash now.
It is amazing how my spur-of-the-moment whims to buy even the smallest things are thwarted when I have to take actual money out of my wallet to pay for it.
Yes, this is a process.
But if you stop the accumulation, it is amazing how fast you can whittle it down.
When you have do debt, you don’t need to earn an income that is taxed 50% by everyone in order to make a monthly payment.
Here’s an exercise you can do for yourself.
Look at your monthly bills, add them up and get a total.
Then cross out all of the payments covering debt.
How much income would it really take to live if you didn’t have those payments?
This is an amazing and eye-opening revelation.
To get out of debt, stop buying anything you really don’t need to have.
Don’t listen to the hype of the media or your past way of thinking and buying.
This is a time to actually begin your lifestyle transformation by “reducing your consumption and monthly burn rate.”
So what will this look like?
Look at your budget.
If you don’t have one, make one.
Take each part of your budget and decide what you can eliminate.
If that is too drastic for you (and of course this is your life and decision!) then just scale it back.
Some expenses to reconsider
Supporting a Sustainable Lifestyle Through Couponing
Cell phone Expense
If you have a smartphone, do you actually need it?
Sure, it is nice to have a phone that makes maps and such, but do you need it?
One family I know has a smartphone for each family member, with a monthly bill of some $400.
Do your kids REALLY need cell phones for texting all day?
Are we living in the past if we don’t have all the bells and whistles?
I am refusing to pay, on a monthly basis, through the nose for stuff my family and I don’t need.
Is it hard to change? Yes.
This goes back to exercising your options by deciding to change.
In our family we have cell phones.
But we do not subscribe to “data” and we have a reasonable bill.
Another family with five kids uses a phone provider that allows you to pay on a minute basis.
They don’t use enough minutes to require a large plan.
The teenagers have phone that are used only for emergency purposes.
The elementary children don’t have phones.
Are they deprived?
I don’t think so.
The family reduced the previous bill by nearly two thirds.
Chances are you could save a bunch too.
How many cars do you really need?
Each has to be maintained and insured.
Must they be really new?
They should be reliable and gas-friendly.
But most of all they should be debt free.
Pay off the loan, and then put money aside for the next car.
Amazing how much is freed up with no car loan to pay.
Cancel Cable TV…cut the cord
This is certainly a personal choice.
Some families have chosen to eliminate this all together and rent movies or go digital by streaming TV and movies from the internet.
What works for you?
Pay off Student loans
If you have a student loan, you will ultimately have to pay it back.
If you don’t have any, don’t get any.
This discussion has ramifications for so many of our younger folks.
Interestingly, the cost of college has increase FASTER than that of healthcare.
Education is now considered a bubble, as many are not seeing the benefit of a college degree when compared to the associated debt (creating debt slaves) required for that degree.
Again, it’s a very personal decision, but while it was routine in days past to go to college, I challenge that in today’s economy.
Higher education is a very important priority to many, and I don’t resist that.
But to go into perpetual debt at such a young age for some degree that is not useful makes no sense.
Credit card Debt
This one is simple: don’t buy on credit unless you can pay it off immediately.
If you are repaying debt, drastically limit entertainment costs.
If you’re out of debt, set a budget for it, and pay cash.
Always think twice about that latte, movie, or dinner.
I don’t think entertainment always has to be at a nice restaurant, or even at an establishment where I have to pay for it.
This reminds me of some Christmas mornings where kids, after opening presents, start playing with sticks or other things.
We really didn’t need all those toys, did we?
That goes for adults too.
Just be disciplined and enjoy life as you decide.
We need clothes.
But how much clothing is necessary?
How many suits can I wear? How many types of shoes do I need?
I would follow the pattern of making purchases with cash.
When you start handing out $100 bills for a pair of tennis shoes and the latest fashions, you might think twice!
Reduce Food Expenses
This is a simple one.
And you might need some help.
Learn to cook GOOD food.
Fresh ingredients, cooked well, taste better and have more nutritional value than prepared food.
A homemade pizza is MUCH LESS EXPENSIVE than the ready made one you buy at the store or have delivered.
Cut back on pre-frozen foods, and learn to freeze your own.
Of course, you save significant $$ by growing your own food.
There is potential to cut over half of your food budget.
Keep Reducing Your overhead Expenses
Of course there are other categories where you can cut costs.
The key is to ask yourself and your family:
What do we really need?
What can we do to REALLY cut our personal monthly burn rate?
How committed are you to put your family in a position to enjoy a rural lifestyle AND make ends meet?
It’s not all about earning and getting money; a major part is reducing your routine burn rate.
Do some “what if” analyses.
How would your budget look if you adjusted each of these items above?
How about cutting back in other areas?
What if you eliminated all your debt?
How much do you REALLY need, then, to make ends meet?
More tips for reducing your burn rate
Create a budget and stick to it
Yes, it’s the dreaded “B word.”
Some of us love the security of budgets, while some can’t stand the limitations.
But there just might be a budget that you can live with.
It may involve multiple bank accounts, cash envelopes, or other clever ways of managing money and sticking to predetermined spending boundaries.
Need help understanding or creating a budget?
My Total Money Makeover free email budgeting course from Dave Ramsey
We are in the process of looking for land to start a small organic farm.
My wife currently works as an elementary school librarian, pretty much just for the insurance because after her 50% contribution for the insurance there literally isn’t a pay check left.
I am a free-lance architectural designer and furniture maker, but also sell greenhouse plans and other handmade and carved items online.
Over the past 11 years, I have built a pretty good client base.
I plan to still run my business(es) part-time after we purchase our property.
I have read many books and talked to several farmers and there seem to be unlimited possibilities of generating income from your land.
Right now we live on only a 1/4 acre, but I have been able to sell seedlings and raspberries to generate additional income.
This year I will be trying my hand at selling cut flowers and heirloom seeds.
I am fortunate that I can run my business anywhere, but after we purchase our property I am confident that there will be even more income possibilities and I am looking forward to that day!
My husband and I have recently been discussing building our own homestead within the next five years.
I wish we could start now but financially it is not possible yet.
My goal for this year is a small family garden where we begin to grow our own food.
We rent so it can’t be big but we are going to do a container garden and try a vertical one as well as a small regular one.
For those in my similar position here is my “Things to Accomplish” list while I wait to be able to even buy an acre of land.
Gardening in many forms; hunting; fishing; seed saving and using cuttings or scraps to start plants; canning; cooking not from a box; decreasing the use of electric devices; better sewing and crochet skills; knitting; archery for hunting and recreation.
We are also researching what would be our best options for heat, cooking, water and hot water.
We want to build our home ourselves and have a basic blueprint drawn for the home we want.
Thankfully hubs also has experience with carpentry and HVAC with a little plumbing and plenty of electrician skills thrown in.
We know we want to build a stone wood burning rocket stove and find a way to use that to heat our water as well as our home.
We do want solar panels but here in the northern states sun isn’t so reliable so we need to figure out a backup plan and how to best store energy for future use.
Our kids all have asthma so ventilation is a huge concern and we can not completely forgo electric because the kids often require a nebulizer (breathing treatment machine) in the winter months when the cold gets to them or if the catch any chest bugs.
There is much to consider when you decide to go off grid and there is always going to be something to do and something to learn.
Right now we are working on our stockpile and emergency preparedness and looking forward to a life of self sufficiency!
My husband has been laid off for six months and he’s still of the mindset that he’ll find another job just like his old one.
I’m trying to get all of our eggs out of one basket by diversifying into medicinal herbs, honeybees, and teaching.
We are living on one income now and it is not so bad!
I retired nine months ago.
All of my friends and cousins told me I SHOULD NOT/COULD NOT do it, that our “manner of living” would suffer horribly.
My husband is nine years younger, and we have NOT changed our lifestyle, but I have learned to live with MUCH less, and realized I don’t need all the “stuff” I had been buying.
I think twice before spending now, and yes, I am blessed with Social Security and a pension.
I saved money in my last 6- 1/2 years of working to do some projects here at our place… but you CAN do it.
I made the move 10 years ago and am living on 1/4 of what I made when I was working.
I spent my savings to buy the property which is only one acre but my auto insurance was lower, and my homeowners insurance was lower until Katrina and such raised insurance premiums all over.
My property tax bill is 1/4 of what I was paying, I have a septic system and a garden and hope to have some chickens soon.
I have a larger house, more land space, less restrictions, lots of trees.
Wish I had been able to do this when I was much younger and more able to work a larger spread and perhaps have cattle and horses.
The first most amazing thing I noticed when I moved here was how many stars are really in the sky when there are no street lights to glare away the darkness.
Birds and wildlife to watch and enjoy.
I used to have deer walk through the garden to get to the birdbath during the drought period.
I think development and hunting have managed to drive them away.
May I never have to go back to living in a congested city ever again.
There are so many things we can do to improve our situations.
Growing food, reducing spending, getting out of debt and not incurring any more debt just to name a few.
We’re still in an apartment dreaming of living a rural life.
Our little balcony is overflowing with pots (most homemade) for growing food and I cook everything we eat from scratch.
We’re stuck here due to a large student loan (a valuable degree, but unable to get employment that truly values it at the moment) and some consumer debt racked up during a few years of severe underemployment.
The best tool I’ve found to help us stay on track is the software “You Need A Budget.”
Unlike most budgeting I’ve seen it’s more of a spending plan and its different way of looking at money decisions has helped me get past the feelings of hopelessness.
I’m still working on cementing the habit but the mental shift has occurred and I feel much more in control than I used to.
A pair of wire cutters and strippers can make your life a lot easier.
Be sure to have some insulation tape in the drawer, spare wires, long-necked screwdrivers, and a test pen or a multi-meter (volt/ohm meter) in your toolbox as well.
Complete the set, and there is no repair you cannot handle.
Once you have covered the basics, you can continue by adding more tools such as a sledgehammer to better meet your specific needs and preferences.
Is Your Household Tool Arsenal Fully Stocked?
Household Tool Arsenal – Avoiding the crowds and the city lights, enjoying an abundance of peace and quiet, being closer to nature, and developing closer relationships with the few nearby neighbors you do have is part of the warp and woof of rural living.
But another aspect of living in the country is the need to be constantly prepared for whatever may come your way.
Stocking up on canned goods and bottled water in the pantry becomes a matter of necessity and not mere convenience.
Another example would be home security devices.
But here, I want to focus on keeping your home tool supplies fully stocked ahead of time, ready to tackle any home repair or renovation project. Extra trips to the town cost too much time and gas money.
Does the desire come and go, or does it seem to stick around?
If it sticks around, you are probably on the track to a specific answer… move to the country, or start a farm or ranch.
Discuss this with your spouse.
It’s important to be in agreement about the ultimate destination of the family.
It is no small thing to move your family and start a new life.
If you see yourself staying where you are or on a beach or in a foreign land, that is great.
You can stop reading if you want, as these articles will not be going in that direction.
But if you see yourself living in a rural area, on a ranch or farm–living a new kind of life–then stay tuned for Step 2!
Strong Family Ties
Interview with the Strongs, another family with plans for a multi-generational farm.
They have lived in rural areas before and are patiently working toward the day they can move full time to the country again.
Tell us about your life in the country and the city.
Our three-generation family has always loved the rural life.
We moved several times and lived on small acreage in the past but never with self-sustainability as our focus.
We are a home schooled family and enjoyed raising chickens, goats, gardening, etc., as part of our lifestyle and curriculum.
Also, we owned and operated a small family business for more than 30 years and love and appreciate the dynamics of working closely with family.
Currently, we live in the city.
We are working toward selling our business so we can live and work full time on our 20 acres.
What drew you to move to a rural area?
We love the rural lifestyle but we are also preparing for what we see as uncertain times in the future.
We feel that rural areas will be safer and more self-sustaining.
What brought you to your particular area?
Although we are a close family we each are individuals with varied likes and dislikes, so when searching for an ideal homestead respect for one another’s preferences was a premium consideration.
For example, our patriarch, Louis, was raised in a fairly remote area with very harsh winters.
His deal-breaker was ‘no six-month, 40 degrees below zero winters!’
Our little granddaughter, Tasha, is musically inclined so an area that was reasonably close to music instruction and venues was a must.
After prioritizing the true deal-breakers from the just-preferences, we began our search for a happy-compromise property.
Through the grace of God, we found a lovely 20 acre parcel that is just waiting for our family to nurture and develop.
What kind of research did you do to find the right place for you?
We searched for countless hours online, talked with realtors, drove and looked at innumerable properties and asked many questions about various areas on forums (www.city-data.com/forum is a good one).
We carefully considered nearly every state before settling on the area and property that we purchased.
Although at times our quest for the right property seemed endless and frustrating, knowing that we had made a thorough search allowed us to make an informed decision with peace of mind.
How did you know when it was time to pursue a move?
We have lived ‘by-the-book’ our whole lives.
We started our family-run business more than 30 years ago and although our company continues to thrive even in this sluggish economy, there is a high price to pay for the fast-paced lifestyle that is required to operate our company.
Government regulations, high taxes, arbitrary industry demands, are difficult to navigate and still have time leftover to enjoy life and family.
So after factoring in the emotional and physical toll of running our business as well as what we feel is an unstable future for the economy, we decided that it was time to quit dreaming of a better life and sell our business to finance a new beginning.
Yes, it was a scary decision but staying the course and continuing with our old life seemed much more frightening and bleak.
We have since moved beyond the initial fears that can plague a major life-change decision and enthusiastically look forward to making our final move to a new life.
What challenges have you faced with your transition?
Selling our business and commercial property has proven difficult in these hard economic times; however, we have; a potential buyer interested so hope seems to be on the horizon.
In the meantime, we pray for contentment with our current life and the wisdom to utilize this period as a time to study and better equip ourselves for the new life that awaits us.
What changes will be easy to make?
We love life close to the land and have no desire to be immersed in today’s culture.
What tips would you give someone thinking about moving to a rural area?
Research, research, research, and, if you are a person or family of faith, PRAY.
Then, if it feels right to you, just do it – jump in.
You’ll never regret it.
Get From City to Farm
Trading Freeways for Country Roads
Meet Forrest and Deb, who made a move from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest over a decade ago—and have flourished in their new lifestyle.
Tell us about your prior city or suburban life—family, home, job?
We both grew up in Southern California, in the “Big City.”
Forrest drove literally 60k + miles per year on the job.
We both wanted out, to move to a small town and live a simpler life.
What drew you to move to a rural area?
We had decided that we didn’t like people – living in the “Big City” no one seems to care for anyone or anything.
Everyone is afraid to speak to anyone they didn’t know.
What brought you to this particular area?
We lived in Sandpoint, Idaho, for 12 years and loved it.
Unfortunately, with the economic climate of the past few years, we could no longer afford to live there.
Still interested in living in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, we looked around quite a bit before we settled on our new hometown in NE Washington State.
We like the feel of it. To us, it feels like what Sandpoint must have felt like 20 years ago.
It is still affordable.
Hopefully it will stay this way rather than growing so rapidly as Sandpoint did.
How long did you prepare for your move?
We generally don’t do a whole lot of preparation — just make a decision and jump.
In this case, we had tried twice before to move away from Southern California before we were able to make it work.
It took us over 10 years before we made it to Sandpoint.
What kind of research or preparing did you do?
Before moving to Sandpoint we had a number of heartfelt discussions about what we wanted out of life before deciding that we wanted to live a simpler life in a smaller town.
We researched small towns including buying a book on “micropolitans,” towns of between 25 and 100 thousand people.
We visited several possibilities on vacation with our four children.
One of those was Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
On a day trip, we visited Sandpoint.
As we crossed Long Bridge, Forrest said, “This is it.”
How did you know when it was time to make the move?
We knew from previous efforts that we had to pay off our California bills in order to survive on the lower wages that we could expect almost anywhere in the country.
Once we were able to do this, it was time to get from city to farm.
How did your family and friends react?
Our friends were supportive.
Some of our family members were negative, but Forrest’s parents soon followed us to Sandpoint.
What challenges did you face with your transition?
Our biggest immediate challenge was financial.
Forrest had developed pneumonia during the three-day drive up from Southern California and was unable to work in construction for several months after we moved.
We had a small savings account, but we had both expected to both get jobs upon our arrival.
The other big challenge was finding decent rental housing for our family, but this ended up being a blessing in disguise and helped us get established.
What changes were easy to make?
Driving fewer commuting miles.
Breathing cleaner air.
Liking people again.
People in small towns are not only willing to speak to someone they don’t know, they are also willing to joke around with them and help them out – who knew?
What tips would you give someone thinking about moving to a rural area?
Be sure that you are willing to accept it the way it is rather than trying to change it into something that you were accustomed to elsewhere.
Be ready and willing to accept help, and provide help to others when you can.
Dream of Homesteading
Today we have an inspiring story about a family that is documenting their journey on their own blog.
Here’s how the family’s new life has been unfolding.
It all started with a dream.
Not a hopeful, wishing sort of dream, but a vision in your sleep sort of dream.
The kind you’ll never forget, even years later.
In his dream, Papa saw an impression of our country’s future, laid out in the sky.
He was left with a feeling of urgency, that we must begin preparing our family for unstable times unless we wanted to be caught vulnerable when it counted the most.
With this beginning came a lot of deep thought, late night discussions, and research to help us decide what it was we were preparing for, and what steps we needed to take to be ready.
The winter after the dream occurred, Papa had a close call with unemployment when two major construction contracts with his employer’s company fell through due to the economy.
Because of God’s grace and his employer’s generosity he remained employed, but the incident reinforced our desire to prepare for a rainy day.
Result After Moving to the Country
Fast forward three years.
And we get from city to farm.
To make our first giant leap in preparing for an economic depression and/or a martial law situation, we purchased a rundown camper, fixed it up and moved it to family property to create a “bug out location.”
We used it as a camp and stored a few things there, but even though we knew we had reason to prepare for trouble, it still felt like a shock when Papa got the pink slip.
After five months of making do, we used our tax return to purchase a more comfortable camper, along with other homesteading supplies, and moved off-grid, leaving the mortgaged house behind.
Living in thirty-one feet
We’ve now been living here, on the land in a 31’ bunkhouse Dutchmen for 15 months.
We have been blessed with our fourth child and a new job (in that order) since we arrived.
However, while our original purpose in abandoning the house and moving out here was to get out of the system and survive, we have used the opportunity as best we can to reach our long-term goals.
Live well with our growing family, no matter the economic, political, or social times we live in.
Our homestead is still in development.
This year we are working on the outhouse and grey water leach field, next year we hope to break ground on our off-grid house, and a rainwater harvesting system but we have achieved a lot by trial and error, and a lot of determination.
We collect and use rain water, we made a compost toilet, we have a small vegetable garden and a decent medicinal herb garden, we raise backyard chickens for eggs, and most of our power comes from a solar panel.
We also managed to stick it out through a New England winter, which we weren’t sure we would be able to do until we were halfway through it.
Eight steps Moving to the Country
There are so many different things I could focus on that are a part of the story, but since the focus for this series is “getting there,” I’ll try to break down the steps we took, to give you some helpful ideas.
We asked permission from family members to park our campers on their land.
With step one approved, we began shopping for campers within our budget.
We also purchased an extra car battery, a solar panel, a water pump, a generator, and a few extra things to make it easier living off-grid.
We downsized our home, literally shutting off half the house, had a huge yard sale, and began packing up.
Moving day – after many of our belongings were moved to the original camper which became our storage building, we hauled the new camper to the land and moved in.
We spent the first couple of weeks learning how to use the propane, water, and electronics in our new living space, which we were able to do before Papa got a new job near the end of 2011 (this whole time he was still applying for jobs, with no luck).
Once we had the important stuff figured out, Papa began work on additional homestead projects – digging a well, creating a rainwater collection system, preparing the ground for gardens, building the chicken run (we brought the coop from the old house), building a tool shed, and installing a clothesline.
All this while the kids and I checked out our new local resources: the laundromat, library, general store, etc.
Gradually we became more confident and became less dependent on outside assistance, like gas for the generator, water for showers, etc.
We are still not self-sufficient, but with time we hope to become so as much as possible, relying on local resources for extra things we need.
Living this lifestyle is not easy – it has its trials – but the benefits are numerous:
Peaceful environment, free electricity, privacy from neighbors, ability to garden and have animals, and the prospect of an out of the way, self-sufficient, off-grid home, to support us no matter what the future holds.
What would you do differently if you had a second chance at making a go of rural living?
Kristy and Mike Athens moved to a rural property in 2003.
But six years later they found themselves back in the city.
Now they’re on track to make another move to another country home.
What will they do differently this time?
Here’s Kristy’s story:
Second Time Out: 5 Top Tips I Do Differently Next Time?
In 1999, my husband Mike and I bought a little house in Portland, Oregon.
Mike and I were fairly conscientious about this the first time, but we were also guilty of getting whipped up in the romance of acquisition and making compromises we shouldn’t have.
For one, we will never live on a state highway again—too loud, too dangerous, and too much extra snow at the top of the driveway from the plows.
We will pay more attention to micro-climates on a parcel.
We will take irrigation more seriously.
And, we will look for mature fruit trees.
I have planted baby trees in two places now, and want to finally reap what I’ve sown!
We will study zoning and local land-use policies.
Our dog, Phynn, was killed on the highway adjacent to our property.
Work on Diplomacy
Next time, I will wait a lot longer before I get involved in local politics.
I will pay closer attention to who is friends with whom, and who isn’t friends.
Also, I will learn who the big-deal families in town are, and who has married whom.
I will pick my battles carefully.
I will understand that no one cares what my education is and where I’m from; all they care about is how I plan to contribute to their community.
Get a Tractor
As I say in Get Your Pitchfork On!: “No matter how strapping a pair you are, you will not be able to keep up if you try to do everything with a pickup, a wheelbarrow and two shovels.”
Those compact tractors are expensive but necessary.
“Elbow grease” is no match for this much snow!
Return to Rural Small Farms, Hard Work, and Local Food
Rural Small Farms Boulder, Colorado is often in the news for being happy, healthy, and crazy about all things local—but not often does news coverage dive into policy efforts that underlie that hearty sheen.
One key: initiatives by the county government to support a local food system.
Boulder County leases approximately 25,000 acres to local farmers and ranchers in an effort to promote sustainable agriculture.
This acreage is part of approximately 90,000 acres of county-managed open space.
Having such local agricultural production capacity is remarkable in Colorado’s sprawling Front Range.
And heightened consumer interest in local foods has been a boon for local producers.
In addition to shaping consumer demands – the “all things local” craze also created new producer desires.
More people began envisioning lives as small-scale producers – a few acres of organic vegetables, a lavender farm, some goats.
Yet historically, most of the farmers and ranchers leasing county land operated at a large scale.
Niwot Farms, for example, is a natural beef operation with more than 1,000 head of cattle.
And according to Mary Young, a writer for The Blue Line, third generation Boulder County farmer Jules Van Thuyne, Jr. runs a 1,800-acre operation, with 950 acres leased from the county.
Yet the county sought a way to facilitate smaller scale-farming dreams.
And today, small producers (typically smaller than 20 acres) have access to public lands through recently developed regulations for a Growers’ Association model for agricultural leases.
Through the Association model, several producers work together on one larger parcel of land with access to shared resources, such as water, coordinated among members.
According to Adrian Card, Boulder County’s Colorado State University Extension Agent, the county currently has 3 Growers’ Associations encompassing 8 producers, with annual leases running $100/acre.
Hay Season on a Boulder Farm (courtesy of Let Ideas Compete via Flickr)
Growers’ Association producers include Ollin Farms, a family business committed to sustainable agriculture that operates a farmers’ market booth, on-farm dinners, summer youth camps and also offers shares in its “community supported agriculture” (CSA).
Organic produce, eggs, and honey can also be found at Hoot n’ Howl Farm, one of three farms which comprise the Gunbarrel Growers’ Association.
A key challenge of the program has been helping would-be farmers realistically consider the requirements of running a production business.
Boulder County’s Extension Office offers a variety of informative print material, as well as interactive listservs and business workshops.
The county also requires each member of a prospective GA have farming experience and/or direct mentorship and oversight from an experienced farmer.
Many local producers have developed close connections with community grocers and farmers’ markets.
Boulder’s top restaurants, including Frasca, Salt, and the Kitchen also foster close connections with local farmers and ranchers.
The Black Cat Farm Table Bistro has gone so far as to create their own organic 70 acre farm which supplies the restaurant, a farmers’ market booth, as well regular food deliveries for their membership-based community food share.
This strong connection between local restaurants and food producers – from vegetables to mushrooms to poultry — was noted in Boulder’s 2010 recognition as “America’s Foodiest Town” by Bon Appetit magazine.
Boulder County’s first Growers’ Association hit the ground in 2008 and the program is following a path of slow, careful growth.
According to Extension Agent Adrian Card, key is to ensure potential producers have a solid business plan based on realistic expectations.
A successful backyard garden isn’t sufficient to ensure larger-scale success.
Still, with its innovative policy setting and relatively strong local market, Boulder County offers a place where ambitious small-scale producers can pursue their farming dreams.
Would-be farmers must bring experience, determination and a willingness to work hard, but the Growers Association Model provides access to another central requirement – land.
Return to rural communities: Resilience over efficiency
Before moving, twelve years ago, to a village with a population of 1,230 deep in the Alps, Daniel and Johanna led a dual life in Zurich, Switzerland — accountants by day and members of a small theater troupe in the evenings and on weekends.
Living downtown in a city that consistently finds its way onto lists of cities with the highest cost of living, however, did not come cheap.
According to Daniel, “when Johanna became pregnant, we knew we couldn’t afford an apartment with enough space for all of us”.
On an earlier hiking vacation, they had passed through a small village and had stopped to visit the garden in the local cloister.
At the time, Daniel’s eye was caught by the adjacent lot overgrown with weeds.
As Johanna’s pregnancy advanced, Daniel thought again of the overgrown lot and bought a bus ticket back to the village.
“The garden was still there, but there was no one to clear the weeds from the next lot.
I talked with the owner of the land, applied for a government grant, and we moved into a nearby vacant farmhouse two months later.”
He soon cleared the land, planted peppermint and an array of other herbs, and within two years had the land certified organic and started producing his own line of herbal tea mixes.
Since then, he has operated a small one-room shop on the cloister grounds, expanded sales of tea and vegetables to a number of local fairs and markets, and started raising goats.
After giving birth, Johanna got a part-time job at the town’s nursery and started organizing a theater group at the local church.
At the time, it was a big change, but now I can’t imagine it any other way. When I was young, I always liked the idea of living in the countryside. It has been much simpler and much happier than I imagined.—Daniel
Urban-rural migrants lost in the flood of rural-urban migration
According to current models, the future is cities — bigger, denser, more populous and more externally dependent on resources and energy than ever.
At a recent symposium, entitled Sustainable Urban Development: Challenges and Issues in Developing Countries and co-hosted by the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) and the United Nations Center for Regional Development, it was pointed out that experts expect the number of people living in urban areas to grow from 3.4 billion to 6.3 billion by 2050, an 85% increase.
Speaking at this event, Ms. Aban Marker Kabraji, Asia Regional Director of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, pointed out that “while cities cover a mere 2% of land space worldwide, they consume a whopping 75% of the resources”.
The massive scale and the rapidity of this shift in human civilization have fostered broad generalizations of an inexorable movement of people from rural to urban areas.
Daniel and Johanna are not alone though — recent reports from Korea, for example, show that in 2011 there was a 158% increase in the number of households leaving cities to settle in rural areas.
One explanation given by Korea’s Agriculture Minister Suh Kyu-yong is that city dwellers are increasingly packing up and moving to the countryside “to seek a quieter life”.
Just as there are a number of commonly cited drivers of rural-urban migration, however, it likewise seems logical that the reasons for households moving in the other direction are more nuanced and differentiated.
Considering the fundamental changes in human civilization that are forecast for the coming decades, are these urban-rural migrants the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, or just exceptions to the prevailing rule?
And what role can these urban-rural migrants potentially play in supporting ecosystems and fostering resilience? The important role of rural populations in preserving biodiversity
Humans can play a crucial role in maintaining and even increasing the biodiversity in their surroundings.
There are many places around the world in which people have interacted with their natural surroundings in a harmonious way for many generations, creating socio-ecological productions landscapes (SEPLs).
These dynamic mosaics of land usage and ecosystems/habitats provide sustainable livelihoods that are interlinked with local culture and community.
Terraced rice fields, for example, are home to a multitude of species, but depend on regular human maintenance.
A recent survey in Japan recorded a staggering 5,668 different species living in rice paddies.
On average, rice farmers in Japan are 66 years old, and the rapid depopulation of the country as a whole, and rural areas in particular, means that these biodiversity-rich SEPLs face abandonment and fundamental change.
A case study published by the Satoyama Initiative looked specifically at landscapes that had been abandoned around Machida City, a suburb of Tokyo.
After observing a steady drop in the numbers of plant and animal species, a project was set up under local management to restore the landscapes through human intervention and make full use of traditional knowledge.
In 1986 a baseline survey identified 591 different species in these areas, but by 2002, the landscapes had become home to 680 different species.
Likewise, forests left unattended — particularly planted monocultures — may grow denser as they age, leaving the forest floor without sunlight.
Those thinned and managed in a sustainable fashion, however, let in enough sunlight to feed lush undergrowth, which in turn fosters a wide range of different species.
Such SEPLs require people to stay on the land to manage it in a harmonious manner.
As such, there has been growing focus by urban planners, among others, on the impacts of this flow of people from rural to urban areas, while the SatoyamaInitiative and others look at how to maintain healthy communities and ecosystems in the face of ageing populations and a lack of successors.
Is specialization antithetical to resilience?
With resilience a key focus of the upcoming IUCN World Conservation Congress to be held in September 2012 in Korea, it is useful to consider the implications of people moving to and from cities.
Perhaps it is most informative to look first at systems that demonstrate a lack of resilience.
Coral reefs, for example, are characterized by dizzying levels of biodiversity, are visually stunning, and are recognized for the potential pharmaceutical value of their genetic diversity.
At the same time, many of the organisms living in these environments are tremendously specialized.
Individual clown fish species, for example, have co-evolved with anemones in a symbiotic relationship that leaves each highly dependent on the other for survival.
Considering the fundamental changes in human civilization that are forecast for the coming decades, are these urban-rural migrants the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, or just exceptions to the prevailing rule?
In a relatively static environment, such specialization has allowed these organisms to efficiently exploit niches within the ecosystem.
At the same time, it has rendered them highly susceptible to changes in their surroundings.
Mass bleaching of coral has been closely associated with unusually warm ocean temperatures and rising water levels, both of which have been predicted as outcomes of global climate change.
With coral literally providing the foundation of these ecosystems, and each organism within the system heavily dependent on the others, such events could cause the entire ecosystem to collapse.
Collectively, these specialized organisms therefore constitute an ecosystem with a low degree of resilience in the face of global climate change.
Scientists have predicted that global warming will spawn a host of extreme weather events, which will test the resilience of ecosystems across the world.
Couple this with the spread of invasive species, widespread habitat loss and ecosystem degradation, and the future looks grim for highly specialized organisms like the giant panda, which feeds almost exclusively on bamboo, or the five-needle Alberta pine, which relies entirely on a single species of bird for seed dispersal, the Clark’s Nutcracker.
On the other hand, organisms with less specific diets and a greater capacity to cope with fluctuations in temperature and weather patterns may flourish in the future as more specialized competitors for resources disappear.
Are rural communities inherently more resilient than cities?
Turning away from coral reefs for a moment and focusing again on cities, it has been noted that efficiency is one of the keys to economic growth.
Efficiency, in turn, has often been achieved through increased specialization.
Many urban residents have a small range of highly specialized skills such as accounting, legal advising, pediatrics, etc.
They exercise these skills in an efficient manner, and rely on other specialists to meet the fundamental needs of their daily lives.
In many cases, urban residents lack even the most basic skills associated with securing food and shelter, and are successful due to:
Continued demand from society for their own area of specialty; and
Availability of other specialists who can provide them with food and shelter.
The absence of either point would raise serious challenges for the individual.
It could therefore be argued that urban systems, filled with their highly specialized and externally dependent individual parts, lack resilience in the same way that a coral reef does.
Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, for example, more than 600,000 people left the capital Port-au-Prince in a mass exodus for the rural areas because food distribution networks had shut down and many people had lost any form of shelter.
Movement away from urban centers towards rural areas may come with an increase in resilience as specialization decreases and skill sets expand.
This does not have to be a dire conclusion, however.
For, while evolutionary processes have shaped the specialization within a coral reef, it is recent economic and social forces that have shaped urban specialization.
The giant panda cannot suddenly decide to diversify its diet, but people can always add to their skill sets.
Indeed it seems that the denser the community, the greater the pressure towards specialization.
On one end of the scale, Robinson Crusoe alone on his island was responsible for every aspect of his daily survival.
Further along the scale, a small group of pastorals in the Sahara may have some areas of individual expertise, but each member of the group remains responsible for a broad range of different actions.
At the other end of the scale are extremes like New York or Tokyo, where specialization has reached its zenith and it is possible to earn one’s livelihood solely from working as a pet therapist or wine taster.
In some cases, therefore, movement away from urban centers towards rural areas may come with an increase in resilience as specialization decreases and skill sets expand, as with Daniel as he moved away from the specificity of accounting and took on all aspects of starting an organic herb farm, raising livestock, and marketing his wares.
If estimates hold true and the global population expands to over 9 billion people by 2050, including over 6 billion urban inhabitants, this means that over two thirds of the world’s population could potentially be based in areas characterized by a lack of resilience.
In purely economic terms, cities may represent paragons of efficiency, but the trickles of people leaving for rural areas may reflect some element of a universal human consciousness that resilience rather than efficiency may be the best survival strategy over the long term.
Buying used equipment an essential part of sustainable farming
Buying used farming and construction equipment is a key part of sustainable farming.
When you choose to farm ecologically you are not only focusing on the profitability of your crops but you are also benefiting your environment by utilizing renewable resources to grow your food.
This enhances not only the lives of people you provide product to but also the farmers who work and live off the land.
A single farm can become a self-sufficient method of recycling when you consider how damaged crops and animal waste can become fertilizer.
Crop rotation nurtures the soil and rain water can even be used to water the plants.
Money and natural resources are saved to a great degree by using this method.
Purchasing used construction equipment is just another form of recycling (or reuse) that can take place on a farm.
Used construction equipment for a farm usually comes from previous users or suppliers that no longer wish to use the pieces because they have gotten older and their parts are harder to find.
This can be a nuisance for an operation that doesn’t have the time to stop and work on their equipment or try to find parts for it.
Farmers who know how to work on their own equipment and don’t mind doing a little looking around for parts won’t have a problem with used equipment.
Technology also often becomes outdated and manufacturers phase out certain pieces that don’t match up to the new and latest releases.
As the economy fluctuates and the construction equipment market changes certain pieces come and go.
As people buy new, the older equipment that still functions well needs a new home.
Unless a piece of equipment is labeled as being broken down it probably will function nicely after a small tune-up and inspection.
Sometimes a few small pieces are needed to make the engine run better but this often only costs a few dollars and can make a big difference over how much you would have saved on a brand new piece of construction equipment.
You can also make any modifications you need for your own farm and it’s often easier to do this on an older piece of equipment.
It’s not necessary to doubt the quality of a used piece of equipment in order to make sure you are running a self-sustaining farm.
Most sellers will encourage you to try out the equipment before purchasing and it’s never in their best interest to try and sell something that doesn’t work properly because a bad reputation could develop.
This could prevent future transactions from occurring so it’s not likely a bad piece would be sold.
Most details are stated upfront and many times a warranty is put into effect for at least 30-60 days.
This gives you enough time to take your new purchase home and try it out.
If any problems are going to arise they usually will within the first month or so.
Purchasing used equipment as a key part of sustainable farming allows for a reduction of energy costs and improvement in the environment.
New equipment doesn’t need to be made if there are older pieces being used and this saves on factory costs.
Raw materials won’t be consumed at high levels either.
Used construction equipment is a great way to go green on your farm and help not only yourself but others and the environment as well.
Business Of Sustainable Micro Gardens
Micro gardens are small growing areas planted without the benefit of a plot of land, even without extensive space.
These are gardens that require only pots, which can be created out of any kind of vessel, encouraging creative recycling.
Urban citizens are encouraged to go green and grow their own food inside old flowerpots, buckets, and more.
Generally, a sustainable garden feeds just the people whose home or land it is attached to, but by slightly enlarging the project, one can create a small business.
The great thing about a micro garden is that it is sustainable, and a great way to teach children sustainability.
Experts suggest you need less water than with a conventional vegetable plot and can simply transfer rain water to the purpose of watering your plants.
Many types of plants can be grown, including leafy green vegetables and root veggies like carrots.
Herbs are especially easy to grow.
All of these are highly nutritious and would be expensive to buy at a supermarket.
You might still have to supplement, but the savings would be enormous.
Another reason this method of gardening is sustainable is that gardeners are recommended to use soil and mulch created from what can be found locally.
Finally, if you are interested in organic gardening and getting away from GMO produce, creating a self-contained garden makes it even easier to prevent cross-contamination from nearby farms or neighboring gardens.
This includes the spread of weeds.
A big part of green living is learning how to be self-sufficient.
When you buy produce, no matter how high quality it is, there is usually packaging around it.
To be really green, one strives to get rid of packaging entirely.
Produce grown at home does not have to be bagged in plastic or paper.
Because a micro garden can be set up on a patio or a deck, it can be an indoor or outdoor venture.
The trick appears to be fitting as many tables and buckets into a small area as possible, with just the essential space for moving between plants to care for and harvest them.
An indoor garden is completely feasible where weather is too inclement to maintain an outdoor system or when the growing season is very short.
Moreover, many people only have a balcony at their disposal because they live in an apartment.
If they can get enough sun onto their herbs and veggies, there is no reason to rely on the produce department of the local grocery store.
Urbanites can enter the green revolution.
Because a sustainable micro garden is typically an independent operation for the benefit of a family or household and is very small, raising a business from this practice seems unlikely.
Yet, add a few more boxes, expand the venture while remaining small, and you could have the beginnings of a green business.
Sell the excess produce you grow, even if there is only a little bit.
Local grocers sometimes buy goods from individuals with green thumbs.
A Green Consulting Business
Besides growing and selling herbs and lettuce, consumers with skills can work as consultants to other householders.
Those with high education, such as individuals holding project management degrees can be of great assistance in starting and maintaining a green business.
Experience is valuable. Hire yourself out as a teacher with the skill of turning a 4-foot-square brown brick terrace into green space.
Act as hired troubleshooter.
People will also pay to get a micro garden growing.
A one-off cost will be quickly justified as the pots flourish for seasons to come.
Many community groups need this kind of help but cannot afford to pay.
Become a volunteer consultant, or apply to organizations that provide funding for green management to low-income families who will make an effort to become self-sustaining if they know where to start.
Unique Garden Decor Ideas Without Spending a Fortune
Garden Decor Ideas
Turning your terrace, patio or porch into a beautiful, relaxing, and fun place for your family and friends is personally rewarding.
A garden décor is great tool that can enhance the aesthetic qualities of your garden or backyard.
It’s time to rethink how you can make your backyard or garden the place to spend time alone or with people you love.
This article tells you how you can transform an ordinary area into something that will elicit “oohs” and “aahs” even if your budget is tight or have little space.
You need to have a theme for your garden’s overall look to make this makeover easier to accomplish.
Choose from the garden décor themes listed below based on what you already own.
Don’t think your area is too small because even a tiny space can look bigger with a few tricks.
And if you think you don’t have enough greenery to make it look like a garden that issue can be remedied, too.
All it takes is a little creativity, patience, and some new ideas.
Garden Decor Ideas
Here are 15 of the best outdoor themes you might want to consider:
Stick to a monochromatic theme by giving your garden a fresh, polished look sans the overkill.
You might already have essential pieces such as a wide beach or golf umbrella and wire-work stools and round table so that’s a plus.
Other future accessories will blend right in with a white/gray scheme.
A patio umbrella is an excellent visual addition to any garden.
If you have plenty of benches, now is the time to maximize their use.
Arrange them with a picnic table to play up a nautical theme such as blue hydrangeas in clear vases and fish motif on place mats and lines. Benches work well outdoors because they have no backs to obstruct the view.
You don’t need a complete makeover if you’re on a tight budget.
Weave splashes of fire engine red throughout your space with table linen, planters, red-based table lamps or ceramic vases for centerpiece.
Give outdoor space a tropical twist with colorful accents such as cushions in shades of fuchsia, tangerine, and lemon yellow.
Get table linen in stripes, florals, and ikat.
Have wide floor mats in hot pink and orange and, if your space has trees, and a draped canopy in a splash of any of those colors for balmy days.
If you love wicker furniture, use it to your advantage and create an intimate and cozy gathering space prepped for some evening entertainment.
Add a fire pit, a portable griller, a freestanding umbrella, and you have a barbecue-cum-poolside hang-out, even without the pool!
Do you live in a totally urban place where privacy is an issue?
Enclose your small backyard with a wooden fence a foot taller than usual.
Get shelves on the wall for outdoor cooking ingredients and condiments and set up essential stone furniture pieces such as stools.
If dining alfresco is your preference, choose furniture that is weather-resistant and a canopied “roof” that has sufficient sun coverage; you can take it down after sunset if you want to dine under the stars.
If you plan to have wood furniture, ensure that they have been water-proofed.
How about using that trunk in your attic as a coffee table for your garden, lawn or backyard?
Add some Chinese lanterns, a day bed, and some colorful potted plants and you’re all set for lounging in style in your outdoor space.
Small crates make good side tables for this lounging area as well.
One of the most important furniture pieces that can make or break your outdoor decoration is the sofa.
Choose a unique couch in rattan and transform it into a conversation piece with plush pillows.
Hang some festive-looking glass lanterns and throw in a few foot stools in bright-colored slipcovers.
You can convert any garden space into a casual area with smart seating options.
If you have a stone backyard, pepper it up with a few wire-work chairs in colors most people would find unconventional for garden furniture: purple, aquamarine, neon green, and sapphire.
No awning in your garden?
Create yours with a simple fabric canopy in beige, camel or tan.
The key here is seating options like cushioned benches or stackable stools that your canopy can cover.
Create a garden under glass. Of course this setting will make you and guests huddle close, but that’s what it’s all about, right?
You want formality in dining but definitely without the fuss.
A reclaimed table in teak with low-backed wicker chairs will keep the setting relaxing.
Tabletop décor of lanterns made of chicken wire are not only cheap to buy or make but uniquely “cool.”
Use fragrant votives in the lanterns for awesome dining aroma.
Summer may be a long way off but you can make your lawn or patio look like summer with some lively details like bistro-style chairs in hot pink, a freestanding or golf umbrella, paper pom-pom lanterns in summer colors, and a huge jar with a circular wooden top for your dining table.
Having your morning coffee or afternoon lemonade outdoors is perfect when your garden has a “country living” theme.
Anything goes, actually, but pieces such as solid back wooden chairs, white lace-edged table linen, and blue flatware and cutlery translate to rustic cottage even when it is set up in a garden.
The avant garde in you can spice up your garden theme with chairs in different designs and colors without looking odd.
Just remember to have them all of them in one material like heavy metal, wire work, rattan or wood.
Interestingly-shaped chairs are all over flea markets and the internet.
Garden Decor Accents
Giving your garden your own personal touch makes all the difference between an ordinary yard, patio or lawn and a breathtaking spectacle.
Plants, vegetation, and flowers play a key role in giving your outdoor spot a classy finish.
Garden Decor Accents
10 great garden décors to choose from:
Arbors: add elegance to your patio or garden entrance with an arbor.
You may not imagine it now, but garden arbors add some whimsy to any garden.
Trailing plants – honeysuckle, grape vines, and roses – can be strategically placed in a garden arbor.
Storage sheds: when you have that sense of style, a storage shed can easily blend with your garden scheme.
Create a flagstone path for a potting shed with wide-plank and peeled paint exteriors for rustic charm.
Sedum and other green succulents on a shed’s roof keep it cool, bright, and brighten any garden.
Statuary art: find your style and give your garden a sense of artistry with little gnomes, forest animals, and even gods and goddesses.
Statuary makes elegant accent pieces and gives your garden a classic touch.
Just make sure you don’t go overboard; you want a few pieces, not the whole Mt. Olympus community.
Water fountains or waterfalls: these are typically found indoors but why not think out of the box and give your garden the whole Zen appeal?
A water fountain or waterfall makes for an arresting focal point for any garden, including yours.
Get one with lights for quiet yet twinkling nights.
Bird feeders and bird baths: the available sizes, colors, and styles of bird feeders and bird baths is seemingly endless.
Choose your while from those with planters, in ornate metal, hand-sculpted, in brass finish, tube shape, with pedestals, in marble, and mosaic glass, among other popular choices.
Stone arrangements: although typical of a Zen garden, stones and pebbles can be ideal décor even in an outdoor setting sans the Japanese motif.
Lush vegetation and low-lying blooms look easy on the eyes with big and small polished flat stones used as steps.
Container options: get clever with unusual plant containers!
Use old porcelain toilet cisterns as planters by concealing their past lives behind bamboo screens or other plants around their bases.
Colanders, baby bath tubs, crock pots, children’s wagons, old sinks, and even baby prams make terrific planters.
Gazing balls: these are yet another set of unusual décor items for a unique garden.
Gazing balls are multi-seasonal, add sparkle to the conventional greenery of a garden, and become the center of attraction for al fresco dining.
Make your own or scour the internet for great deals.
Garden stakes: give your outdoor place some interesting finds like garden stakes that require no other hardware; you just push them right into the ground.
Choose from a plethora of lawn art, pathway lights, flags, glass orbs, candle holders, outdoor shadow, weather vanes and metalwork, among other finds.
Go solar: help the environment and save money while you beautify your garden with solar lighting. eco-friendly Garden entertaining has never been more fun or eco-friendly than with solar tabletop lanterns, solar string lights, pathway lights, and garden wall lanterns, and lawn stakes, to name a few.
Outdoor Garden Decor
You can easily have an attractive, affordable outdoor garden on a shoestring budget (unless you want to replicate the one hanging in Babylon!).
The key factor is to have outdoor decor that is durable, inexpensive, sleek-looking, and blends well with your general garden motif.
Outdoor Garden Decor
If you are stumped on what to get, here are some ideas for great outdoor ideas using garden decor:
Create a patio in your garden with durable furniture pieces such as tiny chairs and small benches that take up little space.
Ditch the idea of a garden resembling that of Eden and “scatter” potted plants in your patio.
Have the planters in rich colorful hues to make greenery stand out.
Go for gravel.
Crushed limestone is a great substitute for grass.
Get privacy with galvanized metal for your fence; it costs practically the same as a wood fence with a distinct advantage: metal will never rot.
Provide irrigation with an eco-friendly rainwater collection container to help your garden grow.
Do you want attractive landscaping but don’t want to spend loads of money for it?
Create your own! Install a “waterfall” or a water fountain.
Better yet, make your own fish pond and populate it with your favorite koi or construct a reflecting pool and surround it with colorful flowers.
Hopefully, these ideas will help you decorate your green garden beautifully or a Micro Garden on the cheap!
I have been using and reviewing a great resource The Home Book: A Complete Guide to Homeowner and Homebuilder Responsibilities, I’m finding this to be an authority guide on workmanship to Homeowners and Home builders alike.
What Could Bee the Problem?
Recently, life for nature’s natural pollinators has been nothing short of a terrifying and detrimental nightmare.
The continuing trend of dying bees is known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
Estimates show that CCD is responsible for approximately 10 million fallen beehives, worth $2 billion in agriculture and ecological benefits over the last five years.
The most troubling news is that none of us seem to know what causes such a massive population decline to such an invaluable species.
However, recent studies by scientists at the University of Maryland provide new insight and developments on the possible cause of Colony Collapse Disorder.
In the past, researchers and scientists have hypothesized myriad explanations for the CCD phenomena.
Explanations range from mites to cellphone towers, but new data supports one hypothesis as the crux of the issue.
Maryland Researchers collected pollen from hives on the East coast and fed the pollen to a group of healthy bees.
The findings show that the test group of bees developed a serious decline in their ability to resist a parasite that causes Colony Collapse Disorder.
The pollen ingested, on average, was a mixture of nine different pesticides and fungicides that normal bees would otherwise collect and feed to their hive.
One sample of pollen collected revealed a combination of 21 different harmful chemicals of pesticides and fungicides.
The results, which were published in the journal PLOS ONE, suggested that bees exposed to the sample of collected pollen are over three times more likely to be affected by the CCD-causing parasite.
Pesticides and fungicides, once thought safe for bees, will now be completely re-evaluated.
Out of their gathered sample, UMD researchers expressed particular concern over fungicides.
They “found an increased probability in Nosema infection in bees that consumed pollen with a higher fungicide load”.
Finding a solution to this discovery will of course take time and innovation as halting the use of pesticides is out of the equation.
Pesticide and fungicide use requires reconsideration in terms of usage, placement, and development in order to maintain a fine balance between crop protection and bee wellness.
One hopeful solution is the host of innovative Ag-Tech companies spearheading the clean tech sector.
For those looking to make their own personal impact, companies produce natural herbicides, pesticides and fungicides from botanical oils for residential and commercial use.
Another strongly venture-backed company is American biological pesticide producer, Agraquest, who was recently acquired by Bayer CropScience for $424 million.
This acquisition is telling of a developing trend for big corporations need to procure more sustainable agro-chemical product portfolios.
It will be up to the big organizations to invest in the expanding sea of clean-agritech innovations in order to secure a sustainable and working system for agrochemicals.
Only then can we start to rebuild from the damage caused by Colony Collapse Disorder.
Homesteading for beginners aims to serve as part of a solution toward becoming more self-sustainable and less dependent on the external world, i.e. grocery stores and mass manufactured goods for daily living.
Homesteading by definition is a term which was coined in the 1800’s to describe lifestyles which depended on the individual, or communities ability to fend for themselves by growing and rearing their own crops and livestock, and becoming self-sustainable via farmer’s markets and small scale businesses rather than large scale businesses.
Modern Homesteading today
In the modern time, homesteading for beginners holds the same meaning, the difference being that it is currently being promoted as a lifestyle best suited for individuals and small families rather than communities, as was the case earlier when communities were more close-knit.
These needs are divided into categories, which will then help someone who is new to the field decide as to how they should approach their new lifestyle choice. One of the common needs would naturally be food; this is where homesteading for beginners takes a leaf out of an old book, that being of the old homesteading community of the 1800’s, who survived on both, small patches of garden on which they grew vegetables and fruit, and also larger patches where they grew crops such as wheat.
However, homesteading for beginners need not be restricted to only food and drink, and the mandatory jams and pickles that appear to be a quintessential addition to the farmer’s markets, which are part of this self-sustaining lifestyle.
One can also consider other aspects of living, which are modified greatly in a cost-effective fashion as part of the lifestyle.
A small example would be certain household items such as soap, shampoo and cleaning agents, which are usually purchased from a provision store.
Homesteading for beginners ensures that one makes these items at home, thus ensuring an economical and environment-friendly set of house products which cost little money and are equally, if not more effective than products that are mass manufactured and sold at department stores.
In context with the sustainability aspect of homesteading for beginners, many of those who have adapted to this lifestyle earn their living through the sale of their fresh products such as fruit, vegetables, seeds, and nuts, and also by selling homemade soaps, shampoos, cleaning agents, candles, and other items.
It is common for small-scale industries to carry out similar activities, however, what sets the homesteading community apart is their farmer’s markets, which have grown in popularity worldwide due to their promise of pesticide and pollutant-free food and grain.
With a little research and practice, and careful research, it is possible for one to adapt to a lifestyle that involves homesteading and provides sustainability options.
Nowadays there are so many options to buy seeds for your homestead.
There are literally catalogs flying everywhere as the season approaches.
A common mistake that newcomers to homesteading make is to plant everything in sight.
Experience will teach you that a careful selection of seeds to grow in the garden will increase the percentage of success considerably.
Homesteading Growing Season
This is probably the most important aspect for you to consider when you are whittling down the choices for different seeds.
Consider how long the growing season is.
There are certain varieties that require a much longer period of warm weather than might be available in your locality.
Sure, they look great in the catalog but there is no point if they are not feasible.
Similarly, the opposite may also be true when you are choosing the seeds.
There are certain crops like peas and lettuce that require a more moderate temperature over there life span.
Choose seeds that fit your climate zone is a wise way to go.
This can be a little tricky for newcomers although with a little research and maybe even some advice from other people in the area will help you narrow down the choices for your homestead seeds.
Things like the amount of rainfall in your location also affect the soil temperature.
Experience is truly the best teacher for the answers to such questions. Another good source is the seed supplier themselves.
They have usually been in the business long enough to know what variety of seeds is successful in what area.
It is easy to spend a large amount of money buying seeds.
All those little packs add up after all!
A useful trick to keep in mind is to try and find large sizes of seed packs.
These can be found online or the mail order sites for the particular company.
Some companies also help you out by sending you a larger size directly to your home.
This turns out to be much cheaper as seeds are much cheaper when bought in bulk.
Find a seed variety that you like and buy it in large quantities.
If you feel that that you do not need these many seeds then you can team up with family members or other friends and order your seeds together so that it turns out to be more economical for the lot of you.
Of course, you have to be careful and make sure that the seeds last in storage.
Certain crops like corn and onions do not store well.
All About Homestead Legal Forms ~ Homesteading has been around for a really long time and its use has gone from meaning a free land program by the US government to living self sufficiently off the land.
Leading a homestead lifestyle requires a serious commitment on the individual’s part which may include a sizable investment of the land itself and a good design. Homestead Legal Forms
All about Homestead Legal Forms
The awareness of the dangers of environment change and the realization that all of us should look to use as little resources as possible is one of the fueling forces behind this movement.
I am of course talking about the rise of homesteading across the nation.
As the concept of homesteading is spreading across the United States, more and more people are interested in acquiring the necessary skills that will let them live off the land in a wholesome and self reliant manner.
There are a number of online forums and websites that are run by enthusiasts like you and often a ton of valuable information is available out there.
There are certain legal things that you should be aware of before you take the plunge and move to your own homestead.
It is necessary to fill out a homestead declaration form specific to your state so that you are legally protected from certain situations.
The form is simple enough to fill and there are certain states where simply living at your homestead as a primary residence is enough for you to enjoy the same legal privileges.
However you still must fill out the form.
The government has limited the maximum cost of these forms including getting them notarized to a maximum of $25 so that it is easy for anyone and everyone to fill out these forms.
The happiness indexes are of the charts for people who make the initially difficult choice of homesteading.
The reason for this choice can be many.
Some people want to do it as an environmentally conscious decision, other want to do it because they feel their skill set is more suited to that type of living and still others chose to look at it as an adventure worth embarking on.
As the homesteading movement gathers momentum across the nation it is necessary that people be aware of their legal responsibilities with regard to their homestead.
There are certain legal things that you should be aware of before you take the plunge and move to your own homestead.
It is necessary to fill out a homestead declaration form specific to your state so that you are legally protected from certain situations.
The legal form is simple enough to fill and there are certain states where simply living at your homestead as a primary residence is enough for you to enjoy the same legal privileges.
However you still must fill out the homestead declaration form.
Legal registration of your homestead declares that this is your primary place of residence and protects it against foreclosure by the bank in certain situations.
The forms can be filled yourself although it is advisable to take the help of someone who is well versed in reading and explaining to you the finer points of the document.
It is an important life decision for many people as they look to leave their old life behind and try and set up a self sustaining homestead for themselves.
It makes it all the more important that you set off on the correct foot with all the legal nitty gritties in place.
The homestead declaration form itself is available on the internet.
There may be small variations from state to state so make sure that you are downloading the correct one for you.
A homestead basically refers to a primary dwelling of any kind and includes houses, condos and even boats.
Once you are sure that you have filled out the form correctly then you have to submit it to the county clerk’s office after paying the small application fees.
Make sure you renew your homestead declaration form on time to continue to enjoy the legal privileges.
This is a simple yet essential step that you need to take care of before you invest time and energy in your homestead.
These regulations have been drafted for your own protection and even though they may seem like a chore, they are beneficial in the long run.
Homestead Protection by definition refers to a legal act that has been legislated in order to protect homesteads, or, personally owned residences, from creditors, property taxes, and any disputes, which may arise following the death of a homeowner spouse.
A number of states within the United States have separate state statutes, each of which offers varying benefits and challenges to the homeowner.
It is said that homestead protection laws take their roots from the economic depression in the 19th century, during which many residences were forcibly trespassed upon and taken over illegally when the owner was unable to bear the burden of taxation.
Some of the main features of the homestead protection or exemption laws include providing a widowed spouse with shelter, exemption from having to pay property taxes on a personally-owned home, the prevention of “forced sales” of a residence, and enables a tax-exempted homeowner to vote on property tax.
A primary limitation of homestead protection is that its benefits are limited to the state over which it has legal jurisdiction.
Another important limitation is that only one property belonging to an individual will be liable for homestead protection; therefore single or primary property owners will be most benefited, while those who have legal ownership over multiple properties will have to decide over which to call their primary property.
It is only this property, which will receive exemption under the Homestead Act; others will be taxable by law.
In some states, it is also mandatory for homeowners to file a claim for homestead protection personally, as it is not automatically managed.
Also in some states, the homestead protection will not apply to those properties, which have been abandoned by their legal homeowners.
In context with the states that are known to provide the most protection to homeowners, the states of South Dakota, Kansas, Iowa, Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma offer the broadest protection, i.e. they offer the highest value of property, which can be protected from taxation via the Homestead Act.
The state of California provides protection of up to $75,000 for single homeowners, $100,000 for married couples, and $175,000 for homeowners who are senior citizens i.e. older than 65, or those who are legally disabled.
The state of Texas on the other hand, does not have a dollar value limit on homeowner’s property and instead, grants an automatic exemption for homesteads not exceeding the area of 10 acres or 4.0 hectares within a municipality, 100 acres or 40 hectares for those in a rural homestead, and 200 acres or 81 hectares for a family.
As per the current law, there are three types of homesteads that are considered under the Homestead Act:
Homestead for Disabled or Elderly Persons.
The first offers automatic protection of up to $125,000 for homeowners and their family who must live in the home and consider it to be their primary residence in order to be eligible for this benefit.
The second refers to automatic protection of up to $500,000 for all owners; in order to receive this equity, homeowners must file a Declaration of Homestead with the Registry of Deeds.
The third refers to homeowners above the age of 62 or older, which includes those who are considered disabled.
SSI disability requirements must be met and the concerned person must filed a Declaration of Homestead with the Registry of Deeds; upon being considered eligible, the person receives up to $500,000 per owner or $1,000,000 for a couple.
Alternative Landscaping Fit Homeowner’s Eccentric Needs
People like to exhibit individuality in many ways, for some it’s personal fashion and for others it’s their homes.
In fact, homeowners have an affinity for individualizing their surroundings.
It usually starts within the home, but the most important aspect of a home is where you relax.
For many homeowners, they relax on the porch or in the backyard.
This is where alternative landscaping comes in to play.
Whether the goal is to enjoy an exceptional view from their porch or within their own backyard, it’s important to know certain stylistic preferences that will best suit their alternative landscaping needs.
Steps to Alternative Landscaping
As with any plan, there are several steps to employ in order to ensure the best possible result.
Landscapers should engage a homeowner, especially ones with unconventional needs, in a discussion of the following steps:
Colors: ask about the homeowner’s ideal plant types, colors, and seasonal expectations
Scale: discuss the size of plants and specific quantities to be used in different areas
Focal Point: question if there is a favored structure or setting as a focus for landscaping
Texture: assess characteristics of the homeowner’s preferred foliage for an optimal setting
Grouping: review possible plant groupings and colors for cluster-like settings
Sequence: consider recurring elements in the mix, but be mindful of over-repetition
Alternative Landscaping Focal Point Suggestions
On occasion, a homeowner has a notion about ideal plant types, colors, and textures but is at a loss when it comes to a focal point.
It’s quite possible there is a natural focal point that you can highlight.
If there isn’t a natural potential setting, you can suggest building a Japanese Garden or an outdoor dining area.
Then again, if the homeowner has children, a backyard playground or playhouse might be the perfect focal point for an alternative landscaping project.
In any case, a homeowner who is aware of landscaping options and makes informed decisions is more likely to be pleased with the finished product.
Homesteading for beginners, For those in the environmentally aware circles, there is a term that is making a comeback of sorts albeit in a slightly different meaning than was originally intended.
That term is homesteading.
Homesteading was originally a US government legislation that gave away free land to people who took large tracts of rural land and then converted it into their primary landholding and place of residence.
It was a huge success as it helped develop some of the largely rural parts of the country years ago.
What is homesteading?
Nowadays, homesteading means to live a sustainable lifestyle away from the city.
Apart from all of these you can always sell your skills that you have gathered as you set up your own homestead.
Even inventory that you may have purchased can leased out or rented out to make extra money.
As the concept of homesteading is spreading across the United States, more and more people are interested in acquiring the necessary skills that will let them live off the land in a wholesome and self reliant manner.
It is to impart the skills required to run your own homestead that a number of homesteading schools are cropping up across the country.
We take a closer look at the skills that you can learn at these schools as well as list out some of the better ones across the country.
A good way to adjust to some of the changes that you will face as well as learn some of the skills that you will need when you take the decision to run your own homestead is to join a homesteading school.
Most of these homesteading schools have been started by pioneers of the return to this movement.
They want to make the path that they followed easier for other to follow.
Canadians Blame for Household debt levels are among the highest of developed country nations, beyond those of Americans and Britons.
Recently, we’ve been warned that these debt levels are far worse than previously thought with growing consensus among experts that Canadians aren’t immune from the downfall they witnessed among their American neighbors.
The only bright side, ironically, tends to be the eroding asset base of Canadians, which is largely dependent on a deteriorating housing market.
As Madani at Capital Economics explained: “Debt growth dynamics over the last decade look eerily similar to the U.S. experience, just before their dramatic housing bust.”
In response, the discussion in the media tends to revolve around the dilemma the Bank of Canada faces in its efforts to combat a struggling global economy on the one hand, which requires a lowering of interest rates, and rising household debt levels on the other, which paradoxically requires the raising of interest rates.
Collaborative Consumption Can Curb Over consumption
I find our reliance on the Bank of Canada amusing because nowhere in our discussion of this dilemma are we considering what I think is the elephant in the room, which I refer to as an intrinsic motivation of big banks to exploit consumers.
3 Types of Lending
To understand this, it’s worthwhile to perhaps simplistically distinguish among three types of lending practices.
The first is responsible lending where banks respond to the needs and wants of informed and educated consumers as a means to lubricate the economy to improve societal welfare.
The second is called careless lending, an extreme level of lending that we saw in the US where, due to the deferral of risk, lenders provide credit to those highly susceptible to default.
The conversation in Canada often ends here as loyalists to the invisible hand argue that banks have no incentive to employ the latter practice because our regulation makes it so that consumer default results in bank losses.
In fact, recently, National Bank Financial analysis Peter Routledge explained
“That these consumer debt levels are a non issue because the average loss rates on banks’ credit cards has fallen back down to about 4 percent, a level not seen since 2008 and the average value accounts whose payments are 90 days or more delinquent is just 1 per cent of the portfolio.”
He concludes that while Canadian debt levels are high, the default rates clearly indicate that this is a non-issue.
The fascinating thing about this absurd and completely misguided conclusion and others that say debt levels isn’t a big deal is that he’s using defaults as a proxy for debt problems rather than considering the idea that perhaps banks have just gotten better at finding ways to exploit consumers without sustaining the cost of default.
This leads me to an overlooked third category of lending practices that I think represents a majority of the types of loans banks make called exploitative lending, a middle ground between the first two extremes where banks search for gaps in consumer knowledge to impose on them the maximum amount of credit possible without them defaulting.
It is this third type of lending that while difficult to pin down is critical because it puts into clear focus the inherent conflict between bank and societal interests, a conflict that I believe is responsible for today’s debt levels.
My Own Debt Experience
For the last several years, I’ve been bombarded with offers from my and other banks to take advantage of credit opportunities, to increase the credit limit on my personal line of credit, my visa card, or to apply for a home secured personal line of credit.
The latter came up when I was asking for a $5000 increase in the credit limit of my existing PLC, at which time I was encouraged to apply for a home secured line of credit that would provide me with 40 times the amount I was originally asking for and 8 times what I had already.
The interesting point of the conversation was that the person on the phone forgot completely about my original request of $5000.
On top of all this, I recently received my fourth communication in a year from my bank offering a 33% increasing in my visa credit despite the fact that since first getting a visa card 17 years ago I have never come close to having a balance of more than 33% of my credit limit for more than 4 weeks.
In other words, I have never maintained a balance on my visa card.
Now what is going on here?
Is my bank really looking out for my needs by offering credit to me that is going to improve my life?
Sadly, I don’t think banks are experts at improving the quality of life of their consumers.
They are experts at finding ways in which to capture value from their consumers.
In this case, value comes in the form of disposable income.
In my case, the bank has learned through reams of data on people sharing my demographic and psychographic characteristics that increasing my credit limit in multiple ways leads to a false sense of security that I have greater disposable income through which to meet needs I didn’t know I had.
More specifically, they know that because I’m comfortable with a 33% use of my credit limit and that my income level has not increased by a similar amount, increasing that credit limit will eventually lead to payments that exceed my monthly income thereby locking me into a perpetual state of interest payments and a high debt-income ratio.
To ease consumers into what it means to have a large balance on their PLC, banks require that consumers keep a minimum balance on new PLCs as a means to avoid initial registration fees.
After the 3 months of a high balance, the hope is that the consumer is accustomed to such a debt level while at the same time hasn’t put money away to pay this off.
Throughout my undergraduate university education, I worked at one of these financial institutions as a customer service representative (teller).
I was awarded cash on the spot if I signed up someone for a credit card.
We were very strongly encouraged to look at the birth dates of younger looking clients to see if they were 18 and were now eligible for a credit card.
I recall learning clever tactics to convince them to get a card such as benefits to their credit rating for future credit access and the benefits of receiving free money for up to a six-week period.
I realize today that this represents a dramatically scaled-down version of a more general culture of pushing credit on unbeknownst consumers.
From the bankers’ perspective, think about how easy it would be to slide down the slippery slope of exploitative lending by finding ways to convince consumers to take on more credit that they don’t need.
Bankers are very bright people, and while well-intention at best, they understand the psychology behind consumer purchase decisions.
They know that a majority of the consumer population struggles to differentiate between cash and credit and that when consumers see a high credit limit they are more willing to use that credit in lieu of cash.
If you were a bank, you would have every motivation to push credit on consumers just up to the point prior to bankruptcy.
Call it greed or good business, the point is that this is a reality that we’re not talking about.
Eco-Friendly Tips for Managing Your Finances
Consumer Responsibility for their personal debt
One of the main reasons why this discussion hasn’t yet occurred is because the very conservative Canadian culture would argue that it’s up to Canadian consumers to spend responsibly and therefore to borrow responsibly.
Carney himself, in his message to Canadians, tends to use this approach.
What this completely overlooks however is how the power of Canadian financial institutions in influencing consumer behavior in Canada.
Several months back I was somewhat lambasted by the Sustainability Director of one of the Canadian banks because I criticized their green initiatives as green washing, a mere disguise for the blatant disregard that they oftentimes demonstrate to society.
My main criticism, like with many other firms I comment on, is that on the one hand the bank is marketing the hell out of their commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency in their retail branches but on the other ignores how their ongoing daily activities with business and individual consumers leaves them culpable to debt issues.
There is no question that the banks would respond to my above claims by completely denying responsibility for any increase in debt levels because it is up to the consumer to make sound credit decisions.
This is an expected response, one that several other industries have taken when they engage in activities that indirectly lead to major social issues.
The apparel industry denied responsibility for sweatshop labor in the 1990’s, the consumer electronics industry, up to a year ago, denied responsibility for the suicides in their suppliers’ factories, the food and beverage industry denied responsibility for the obesity epidemic, and of course the tobacco industry denied responsibility for consumer deaths.
The banks got their first scare in 2008 with the financial crisis revealing that the inherent motivation of the financial industry does not necessarily align with society’s interests.
As Canadians figure out that debt levels, like cigarette addiction rates, are not necessarily caused by consumer irresponsibility but rather a blatant attempt by banks to exploit the vulnerabilities of their consumers, a major backlash will ensue.
Perhaps one so drastic that they end up like their tobacco company counterparts, cowering in a corner begging for mercy.
I’m not Environmentally Friendly, I’m Just Cheap
I started by asking myself if the decisions I make are “eco-conscious” or “frugal” ones. I initially thought it’s not an either/or question, rather a both/and proposition.
My dad instilled frugality, while my step-father promoted a sense of stewardship by having us collect cans to recycle.
There was a monetary incentive.
Growing up in Los Angeles, each can had a deposit and we earned money for returning them.
If memory serves, my step-sisters and I earned over $100 for turning in cans (multiple large trash bags full of crushed cans).
Every time I come back to the question of whether I walk somewhere because it’s good for the environment or I’m just cheap, I almost always tend toward the frugality.
I can’t stand paying for gas.
Every time I drive the car I think about how much money I’m wasting and how much I could save by walking (or biking).
Every month, when our auto loan gets deducted from our meager checking account, I curse how expensive it is to own a newer car.
The same goes for the insurance on it.
We don’t drive much, neither my wife or me.
In all honesty I don’t know what her aversion to driving is.
She supports environmental awareness, but I don’t know if she quite disdains the financial commitment the way I do.
The funny thing is that it doesn’t matter at the end of the day whether I’m a cheapskate or just being an “eco-warrior” because the two really go hand in hand.
Saving resources, like using cloth napkins instead of having to continually buy paper ones or paper towels, is all about saving.
Money, energy, trees; these are all resources.
I just can’t understand why people would willing spend money when there are viable, cheaper alternatives.
I suppose this explains why the savings rate has been so low in this country.
Debt – I’m talking about personal, not governmental – is something to be avoided.
Why wouldn’t someone choose the option that saves money?
There just happens to be an added benefit of saving other resources too sometimes.
There are times when the sun doesn’t shine for longer periods and in these situations your backup generators kick in using the excess energy to power your house.
Homesteader’s Life Insurance
In America there are many households which started to live off the grid, unplugging from the system and generating their own source of food and energy.
As they do this, various life and health insurance companies bring out different homesteader’s life insurance coverage options for such households.
To save the greatly depleting fossil fuels, many households are reverting to creating and consuming their own energy.
They recycle, reuse and make sure everything they do result in positive results for both the environment and themselves in the short and long run.
There are specific insurance companies which allow discounts for homesteader’s life insurance for individuals who are less dependent on public utilities and create their source of power.
Some give up to five percent concession on premiums if homeowners install solar panel systems and geothermal pumps to power their homes.
Living Off the Grid Does Not Mean that You Live Without Any Power
According to Cyril Greenya who is Donegal’s (insurers) chief underwriter; “If someone is living in a house with no heat and no water, that’s not somebody we would like to insure.
If they have wood fireplaces or coal stoves, that’s not something we want to insure.
Now you’re talking about a fire hazard.
But geothermal and solar are different. They’re safe.”
Some homesteader’s life insurance companies require that you install solar panels and geothermal pumps via a professional in order to get insured against any hazards.
Insurance companies discourage getting the job done by inexperienced individuals who risk destroying your house through improper insulation and installations which end up damaging entire systems.
There are many homesteader’s life insurance companies that do not give out homesteader’s life insurance coverage to households which are powered by wind, yet.
‘Going Green’ Insurance Coverage
Over the years there have been a lot of homesteader’s life insurance companies which have provided customers with substantial discounts for owning ‘Green’ homes which are environmentally friendly.
According to reports made on these insurance companies it was discovered that in 2009, 22 homesteader’s life insurance companies provided 39 services and products in order to promote the construction of buildings that are environmentally friendly.
These companies also promote the renovation of older buildings using environmentally friendly techniques.
Since the report came out it has been discovered that there are now even more companies providing homesteader’s life insurance for households ‘going green’.
Michael Barry, a spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute was recorded as stating;
“Alternative energy coverage is a niche business, but as more homes are being built that are so-called eco-friendly, and as more homeowners take an interest in them and as more builders build them, you will see more insurers cater to this audience.”
Many Insurance Companies Do Not Quote Lower for Off the Grid Homes
Do Not Get an Additional Coverage for modern Homesteader’s Life Insurance and Home Insurance
It is not necessary to get additional coverage for your solar panels and geothermal pumps since your general insurance policy covers all of this.
You will only have to make sure that your policy precisely defines the cost of replacing it would cover for repairs to your home.
Many speculate that with the rising popularity of homesteaders in the country, more insurance companies will start providing coverage for homeowners using alternative energy.
According to USA Today, it was reported that over 250,000 families now live off the grid in both urban and suburban areas.
Mentioned below are some of the benefits of Living of the Grid with modern Homesteaders Life Insurance:
You can grow your own food and energy to power up your house without any outside influence.
This will allow you to save hundreds of dollars in utilities bills which you can put to better use.
A sustained food supply means that you will be able to consume healthy and non-GMO based foods.
Plus you can even sell some of your fresh organic produce for twice the price.
Self sustainability will allow you to become more environmentally entwined and you will stop wasting resources and energy.
Turning off excess lights, turning off running water when shaving or brushing your teeth etc. are all things that you will need to do in order to save energy and the environment.
The feeling you get when you do not have to pay for you utilities month after month and knowing that you can grow your own food and supply your energy is out of this world.
This free and independent feeling is a reward unlike any other in this day and age.
You will not have to depend on anybody.
Going Green Can Save Money
‘Going green’ might save you a considerable amount of money.
Living off the grid can be a bit expensive initially, but once you have installed your systems and recovered your investment in about 5 to 10 years, you will see how much money you can save living off the grid.
Plus you will not have to pay an increased amount of utilities and fossil fuels.
Some Considerations for Off the Grid Households
There are several advantages of living off the grid but it takes a bit of time and money to set up the entire process.
Here are some things to consider when deciding to go all green.
You are your own power company:
When you pay for your utility bills you are also agreeing to pay a percentage amount on salaries of all those who are employed by the power companies, the workers, the maintenance people etc.
When you are off the grid you will have to spend a lot time making sure that everything is in check along with setting the entire system up.
Regular Investment is required: In order to go entirely off the grid it is required that you invest a lot of money in backup generators for the house along with batteries that can store the energy that you produce.
Based on the qualities of the batteries you may have to buy a new one every 5 to 15 years.
Plus generators require gas and tools you will have to buy a lot of that daily in order to keep the generators running in case of a power outage.
All in all, it is better to apply for your homesteader’s life insurance policy when you go out to get an insurance coverage for your off-the-grid house.
Homesteading Increasingly Popular
Homesteading has become increasingly popular and if the trend continues like this there will be more homesteaders life insurance companies serving alternative energy-backed homes with more services and products.
If you are fed up of paying utility bills every month by working two to three jobs than it is better to switch to a more self-sufficient, satisfying and rewarding way of life.
A homesteader’s life insurance policies may be really flexible depending on the needs of the one who has applied for the policy.
The death benefit is subjected to a decrease or increase at anytime depending on the policy owner.
Plus you can even decrease and increase your insurance premium which is another benefit of having a homesteaders life insurance coverage.