My husband and I are in our early thirties, and we have three girls from age 6 to 1.
We love alternative construction, learning all kinds of homesteading and natural living skills, and both my husband and I have had lifelong dreams of living a simple life on a homestead in the mountains.
We believe pretty strongly in having less, doing less, and therefore having more time to enjoy those sunsets and being hands-on with life instead of slogging away in the corporate world for a lifetime.
But – just a few weeks ago, through a series of unexpected events, we decided that it is time to build.
We feel very strongly that our hand is being guided and we are getting the message loud and clear – BUILD NOW.
Except we don’t have much money.
We do already have the land, with water at the home site, as well as a small trailer to live in.
Wanna know how much we will probably be able to spend? $10k. $15k, tops
Challenges Building and Living Off of the Grid Homesteader Life
“If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”
I’m actually pretty curious to see what we will end up doing.
I myself am a little more interested in permanently living off of the grid but neither my husband or I are all that well versed with all the systems and setups required.
When it comes down to it, however, I have a feeling it might make more sense to spend $5000 on a good solar/wind/etc. setup (and any necessary training!) as opposed to spending it to hook up to the grid (and let’s not forget the monthly payment also!).
I’d love thoughts on this!
Right now, we are making a list of what are the bare minimums we need in order to have a habitable home in time for winter this year.
I am very thankful that the “BUILD NOW” message came now, in early spring.
Our house will not have siding to start with, and it’s likely we might not even have drywall on the inside.
Holiday Gift Ideas – Is it that time of year again? Our family truly enjoys this special month of December.
We celebrate Christmas in many ways, from a birthday cake for Jesus to special holiday menus, from stockings on the mantle to a fragrant Christmas tree.
But our favorite facet of the month has to be the warm and festive gatherings with family, friends, and neighbors.
And some of those get-togethers involve gift giving.
Though we try to be kind and generous all year round, there’s something about celebrating this season by giving something special to those we love.
In our family we exchange gifts including coupons for services and outings, personalized tree ornaments, practical packages under the tree, and fun gift bags passed around in those silly gift exchange games we just can’t give up.
Are you in the market for some ideas for holiday gifts for individuals or families?
Here are some suggestions from our house to yours.
Rural Living Today Holiday Gift Ideas Four Holiday Wish Lists
Rural Living Today have compiled some lists of practical and fun items we use or would like to have…and that we highly recommend to other homesteaders.
So here we have lists For good measure, we’ve added a list for the youngest homesteaders in our lives.
We’ve included links to some online stores so you can see the products or order them if you wish.
But we also encourage you to support your local merchants by shopping in your own neighborhood.
Rural Living Today Holiday Gift Ideas
Carhartt Long Sleeve T-Shirts
I could never have too many of these–I live in them all winter.
Marie and I both like to wear them alone or layered under other shirts, depending on the temperature.
Badland Winches and Trailer Tongues for Your Vehicle
With safety always being a priority, we have put together information on two products for your vehicles, depending on your situation.
It is not surprising to have off-road vehicles get stuck in the mud or some challenging terrain regardless of their tough mechanisms and dynamic designs meant for such situations.
This is when Badland winches would come in handy to extract the vehicle from uninspiring positions in the outback or dense forests.
The market offers 12000 lb Badland winches with an automatic load-holding brake to get stuck off-road vehicles out of their predicament easily and quickly.
The dynamic winch can offer plenty of power in any heavy vehicle recovery using a cable tensioner that pulls out the stuck vehicle quickly without damaging any component.
If you frequent adventurous trips using 4×4 wheel vehicles in remote terrains, it is wise to bring along one of these 12000 lb winches as an unfailing companion when needed to get out of a tight situation.
Badland Winches for off-road fun
Badland winches exhibit great power in not just recovering stuck vehicles; they can haul timber over a great distance or be loaded onto a container.
A boat can also be loaded with this powerful winch which uses a series-wound motor.
The winch enjoys a 3-stage planetary gear system that spurns a fast speed line to get the job done.
Its load-holding brake is an automatic feature that is designed for extreme safety in any off-road adventure.
Modern technology ensures that all Badland winches are designed with dynamic components that offer features to benefit the extreme adventurer with maximum safety.
The winch’s motor stays cool even when in long pulls while the free spooling feature ensures a fast line out.
Its cable tensioner is specially designed to prevent any tangling of the cable.
The winch has a 12-foot remote control that is ergonomic in shape for a smoother hold and grip.
Its roller fair lead comes with nylon bushing and tough wire rope of aircraft grade to give durability and strength at every pull out job.
It is easy to attach the winch onto the vehicle easily and securely to ensure that the vehicle would be pulled out of the challenging terrain.
Easy access to buy Badland Winches
Veteran off-road adventurers have no hesitation in investing in a quality Badland 12000 lb winch from an appointed supplier that provides fair pricing and friendly customer services.
Such products come with a lifetime warranty that assures consumers of material defects or substandard workmanship.
An extended guarantee can be secured to enjoy better services from its distributor.
Certain distributors may even allow a return of these winches for any reason.
Costing just a couple of hundred dollars with a lifetime warranty, Badland winches are a strong necessity for adventurers as well as heavy vehicle repair shops, manufacturers, tool enthusiasts and building contractors who have specific uses of the winch.
The wide number of suppliers and distributors for winches makes it easy for customers to get a unit for their vehicles.
The internet is a powerful platform that allows easy search and online purchases of these tools, such as wWw.OnlineCarParts.co.uk.
At first look, Trailer Tongue sounds like something a dentist might be interested in or maybe something a stand-up comic dreamed up of.
However, hold your laughter as a trailer tongue is a very real thing and for people who love to carry their mobile home along with them as they head down the road, a trailer tongue is a serious thing.
Technically it refers to the forward portion of a trailer where the coupler is mounted.
Now why would one worry about this contraption or even give it a second thought?
Well first of all, as they say in trailer circles, always know your tongue weight.
It is something that you will need to aware of if you intend to hitch a trailer to your car.
Most people who are familiar with all things towing say that the tongue weight should be around 9-11% of the gross trailer weight.
This is crucial with respect to safety while towing your trailer.
If the tongue weight is too light then not enough downward pressure is applied on the attachment point and can result in something that is called as trailer sway.
This is unsafe as it makes the trailer difficult to handle and can it can even come off under severe stress.
The other thing is if the tongue weight is too heavy.
This causes an undue strain on the car pulling the trailer affecting the gas efficiency as well as making the trailer very difficult to maneuver specially around turns.
There are some fixes that can be made if the trailer tongue weight does not fall within the correct weight limit then simple fixes can be made.
These include shifting the cargo weight inside the trailer to help compensate as necessary.
If the trailer weight is too light then all that needs to be done is to shift the weight forward and if the weight is more, then some weight needs to be shifted toward the back of the trailer.
This helps in balancing the trailer weight and helps in maneuverability.
This however is a distant second fix as compared to changing the actual trailer weight.
Calculating tongue weight
The next logical question is how to calculate the tongue weight?
Well the first step is to know the total weight of the trailer so that you can calculate what weight range you need to be within.
If you do not already know this then a trip to the public scales and a small dollar investment will provide you the answer.
To calculate the tongue weight you can either use a small bathroom scale (for lighter tongues) or you can purchase a specific tongue weight scale which will help you find out the exact scale of the heavier tongue weights.
For newcomers, both the information on Badland winches and trailer tongues for your vehicles may sound intimidating but with your research, you will need what you need to in order to buy accordingly.
It all takes prepping and planning, but there are sure to be some ideas that would work well for you and your family.
Depending on where you live and your land and storage opportunities, you can choose what makes the most sense.
Starting small will be key to continuing to grow your resources and supply. This way, it won’t take away from essentials if you are on a limited food budget. You will also want to keep stocking so that you can rotate through your food and not have any perish.
The most important thing is to get started.
It may seem overwhelming at first, but start with what you know.
Then expand and grow your skills from there, and soon you’ll be ready for whatever the future brings.
You may be hearing a lot about Big Deal GMOs. Most likely, you eat them regularly.
The acronym GMO stands for “genetically modified organism.”
Bayer’s Monsanto, with the support of many businesses, organizations, and agencies, has been steadily increasing its use of GMOs since the first GMO tomato was introduced over a decade ago.
It’s gotten out of control.
Ever eat a product containing soy or corn products? If you eat any type of packaged or processed food products, then you probably have.
What the small print won’t tell you is that most of that soy and corn is GMO. Canola oil, alfalfa, beet sugar…all taken over by GMOs.
Even some varieties of zucchini and crookneck squash in supermarkets are GMO products.
Aspartame, America’s current favorite alternative to sugar?
You’ve got it—GMO.
According to Prevention Magazine, GMOs are in 80% of processed foods. In the United States, GMOs are not required to be labeled. However, in organic foods, they aren’t allowed and are banned — so you won’t find them in the increasing number of organic products.
In recent years, companies are including Non-GMO on their labeling as a marketing benefit. Pay attention to these products and choose them when you can.
What is Big Deal GMOs?
Other related terms are GEO (genetically engineered organism) and GMF (genetically modified food).
GMOs are created in science labs. Genes of plants and animals are manipulated to one or more of the following:
Increase their resistance to certain organisms
Produce a pesticide within the plant to stave off insects
Have the ability to survive weed-killing fertilizers
Initiate the production of specific products
Provide some other perceived benefit
This all sounds well and good if the results are desirable to all who choose to make use of them.
The trouble is, GMO products have invaded the United States food system, and the majority of American people have ingested them for years without knowledge of their effects.
Not only are GMO foods rampant in our grocery stores, but GMO seeds are sold for use in commercial fields as well as in home gardens.
What’s more, any farmer or even backyard gardener is at risk of being sued by Monsanto for unintentional use of the company’s GMO tainted products.
In a process of nature called “drift,” pollen can be carried by wind or pollinating insects into neighboring—even distant—fields and gardens.
Monsanto has had the nerve to sue people for having these GMO-pollinated plants in their possession and reusing the seed.
Yet, a lawsuit against Monsanto brought by a large group of organic farmers was thrown out of court.
Frankly, it’s hard to find accurate information on GMOs and their effect on our food supply.
Monsanto, the originator and perpetrator of GMOs, says there is no danger to people.
The government doesn’t seem to be saying much. However, one anti-GMO organization after another cites research indicating that GMOs are harmful to humans.
Illnesses from GMOs?
Many modern-day illnesses and afflictions are considered to be tied to GMOs in our food and environment.
Even our own family exhibits indication that this may be true. We lived in Europe from 1986 to 1991, eating food from European stores and farms.
We were not in the military, so we did not have access to U.S. commissaries.
After returning to the U.S., some of our family members developed health issues which have never been resolved despite treatment. Recently some of those ailments have come under suspicion as GMO-induced.
Is it a coincidence that GMOs were introduced to our U.S. food system in the 1990s?
Other countries in the world are not only refraining from creating GMO products, but are refusing to purchase them from the United States.
GMO products are illegal in many parts of the world.
So what’s the real scoop?
We can’t even get close to guaranteeing any one source as an accurate description of GMOs and their effect on our food and our bodies.
For that reason, we encourage you to do your own research. Draw your own conclusions about GMOs and how they may affect you and your family.
Genetically modified organism (GMO), organism whose genome has been engineered in the laboratory in order to favor the expression of desired physiological traits or the production of desired biological products.
In conventional livestock production, crop farming, and even pet breeding, it has long been the practice to breed select individuals of a species in order to produce offspring that have desirable traits.
In genetic modification, however, recombinant genetic technologies are employed to produce organisms whose genomes have been precisely altered at the molecular level, usually by the inclusion of genes from unrelated species of organisms that code for traits that would not be obtained easily through conventional selective breeding.
Inter-species gene transfers
With GMO technology, both livestock and plants have been modified to provide something that someone considers a benefit.
Dairy cows have been bred with human genes in order to produce milk that is similar to human breast milk.
A new variation of pig produces Omega-3 fatty acids due to the introduction of a roundworm gene.
Plants have been engineered not only to resist pesticides but to produce their own insecticides and other pesticides.
What happens to our bodies when we ingest these abnormal and unnatural products?
Can our bodies, designed to digest and use foods our ancestors ate, process these test-tube concoctions without harm?
Our right to know, our right to choose
Here at Rural Living Today, we’re not alarmists. We’re not radicals; nor are we very vocal about political or social opinions.
But there are a few topics that we feel we must speak out about. Recently we discussed the need for being prepared for challenges that are coming down the pike.
Today we are urging you to become knowledgeable about GMOs in the U.S. food system.
What can we do about the production of GMOs? Probably not a whole lot.
But there are things you can do.
You can continue to fight for our right as human beings—as Americans—to access wholesome unadulterated food that was created for the use of our human bodies.
Though we are very much against the use of GMOs in general, what we’re really advocating is mandatory labeling of GMO-containing products.
It’s our right to know what we’re eating.
Many of us are growing much of our own food or getting it from local sources that we trust.
Unfortunately that option is not available to everyone.
But everyone has a right to choose whether or not to ingest GMO-containing products.
What can you do?
Educate yourself. An Internet search for “GMO” filtered by the “news” category is a good place to start.
Read all ingredient labels before you buy anything. Watch for corn, soy,
By changing what you can — what you buy and what you eat — you will make a difference. Cook at home.
Notice the foods you buy and eat most often. Find out which of them contain GMOs. Start by finding GMO-free alternatives for those foods.
Support the movement to require clear labeling of products containing GMOs. There are currently numerous national and state initiatives to require GMO labeling.
These bills have huge support from small farmers and consumers, but equally huge resistance is coming from big businesses and lawmakers. See JustLabelIt.org for more info.
Know what you’re buying and eating.
Investigate GMO use in your favorite manufactured and prepared foods.
Ask local farmers and food producers if they use GMO-free ingredients, seeds, livestock, and feed. “Certified Organic” products are raised without GMOs, and many uncertified organic growers follow the same guidelines.
Purchase garden seeds and plants from companies that guarantee the absence of GMOs in their stock.
Most non-GMO companies will probably have notations in their catalogs and websites.
There is a lot you can do to eat healthier. The easiest is to stop buying as many processed foods and packaged foods. While it’s often more expensive, buy organic when you can. They will be free from GMO ingredients.
Do your best to provide a healthy food supply system for yourself and your family.
When you buy seeds, be certain they are labeled non GMO.
Here at Rural Living Today our focus is on rural life, moving to the country, and making the urban-to-rural transition.
But once in a while we feel compelled to write an “editorial” on a topic that’s a bit off the subject because it affects those of us who want to live a more sustainable life.
It took me a while, but I now see and understand that what is happening right now is not normal. Things that happened in recent months and years have NEVER happened before.
We aren’t just experiencing a little negative blip in our economy.
In fact, because the global economies are so connected together, we cannot separate the issues that are happening in other nations and believe they will not affect us.
The U.S. economy along with those of Europe, Japan, and China all interact with each other. What affects one, affects all.
This is a very negative topic, because we do want things to get better.
We have to learn we can take personal responsibility and formulate appropriate action plans for our families. These plans must deal with the direct issues that we will be facing.
If you think everything is fine and don’t care to really look at these issues I am about to bring up, you may want to just stop reading this post and move on.
My point is not to convince anyone of anything. I only hope to educate you by giving some starting points for your own research so you can come to your own conclusions about how your family might be affected.
Most likely you will want to make some changes in your lifestyle. You may want to pick up the pace of your personal food production, food storage, or skill development.
Some of you who live in urban settings might even accelerate your plans for a move to the country or rural area.
For many of us, the Big Hurdle to overcome is “The Normalcy Bias.”
Many of us are victims of what is commonly referred to as “normalcy bias.” This causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster as well as the possible effects.
In fact, this bias wants to stop us from even reading about, researching, or concluding that there are some potential disasters and issues that must be faced.
We assume that since a specific disaster never has occurred, it never will.
Normalcy bias examples
Consider these examples of the normalcy bias:
During World War II, millions of Jewish people went on with a “normal” life even knowing that friends and family were being taken against their will and that something was “wrong.”
Understandable, as the situation was too horrific to admit, yet these people paid for this mistake with their lives.
Many Titanic passengers and crew members, including the captain, lost their lives because they couldn’t accept or believe that “the unsinkable ship” … could actually sink.
They made no effort to evacuate until it was too late.
During Hurricane Katrina, many thousands of citizens refused to evacuate, as they had the opinion and bias that the levees could not fail.
But they did fail, and the people paid the consequences of this bias operating in their own lives.
This happened during countless natural disasters and weather events all over the world.
Evidence of the normalcy bias is all around, throughout history and in today’s news.
The good news is you can disarm the normalcy bias in your own life! Learn and find out what is happening around you!
To many of you, what I present here is not new. To others it is eye opening, an “oh my gosh” experience, a denial.
I care about our readers and others who are transitioning their lives from a urban/suburban to rural lifestyle.
I am not trying to convince anyone, but rather bring awareness of the critical nature of what is happening all around us.
My first recommendation to anyone wanting to investigate further is to take a FREE crash course from Chris Martenson. I have no connection to him whatsoever, but I highly recommend the course he put together to help people understand what is happening around them.
Peak Prosperity Crash Course.
Start from the beginning.
You can do it all online, chapter by chapter.
It is simple, clear, and full of content.
When you’ve finished the course, you will feel like you have a much better grasp of current events.
Go do it!
In addition to that, there are some concrete practical steps we recommend that everyone take to ensure a smoother ride on the upcoming rocky roads.
Practical steps: preparing for an uncertain future
Establish your home base
Too many people look at their existing living situations as temporary but have no concrete plans to change that.
Many a homeowner will hold onto a current residence they view it as an investment.
It’s time to move forward, to find your place and start to homestead it. While it may take time, make a start.
You have time now, but our movement in the future may be restricted.
Figure out your finances
On paper or in your head, get a grasp on your financial situation and know where your money and your future income are.
Stop living above your existing income. Do what you must do to start living below your means. Stop buying ANYTHING on credit, and start a savings cushion.
Where are your existing assets?
Do you have all your eggs in one basket, or are your assets in a variety of forms like cash, gold, silver, and farm/ranch property that will sustain their value even with a hard economic crises or collapse?
Are you relying on one source of income, or do you have potential for multiple smaller income streams?
Plan for feeding your family
It’s crucial to develop the capacity to feed your family, swap, and barter without relying on grocery stores and other commercial sources.
Many of us have seen stores emptied as a result local emergencies. So how would we eat if there was an extended emergency?
We would highly recommended a very balanced and clear plan that fits your family.
This includes stored food and water, the ability to raise food from year to year, and a backup of local resources for swap and barter.
Learn how to raise a variety of non GNO vegetables, fruits, and livestock for eggs and meat.
Start on a food storage system.
Learn to preserve food by canning, dehydrating, and freezing.
Talk to your neighbors to find out who can provide what items in a time of need.
Learn to cook and bake from scratch.
There may come a time when no one will be able to rely on grocery stores, restaurants and deli departments.
Inventory your non-food household needs
Have a good supply of equipment, tools, and supplies for your home, personal needs, garden, and livestock care.
Assess what you have, what you need, and what you can borrow from neighbors or use for barter.
What can you make from scratch that you might normally buy?
Check out ideas for lots of homemade products at Frugally Sustainable.
Hone a hefty skill set
Know how to do a lot of useful things and be a perpetual learner of new skills.
Not only will you need to do things for yourself, but services are great for bartering.
What can you already do well? Also, is there anything you can learn to do? In addition, what can you learn from a friend or neighbor?
Peruse Mother Earth News and GRIT for tons of how-tos and tutorials. At our RLT site, we’re aiming to amass a lot of instructional info too.
Whether it’s family members, friends, or neighbors, everyone needs the support of a community of some kind.
Look around you. Who do you get along with?
Has anyone expressed interest in working with you?
In addition, consider who has a skill set or expertise that complements yours?
Rural Living Today is part of YOUR support community.
Our contributors and our readers are real people that are of like mind and kindred spirits.
We’re all on a similar path toward self-sufficiency and sustainable living that will serve us well in the coming years.
The shaft is made from sassafras with some of the bark left on for added appeal.
In fact, the bark forms the “twist” around the shaft, and it looks amazing.
As good as the pictures online are, seeing my own walking cane from Brazos Walking Sticks Company was something entirely different.
The piece has a really beautiful sheen, and the orange and red colors are gorgeous.
I’m impressed by how lightweight this stick is, yet it appears to be amazingly durable.
No matter the terrain or the weather, I know that my Twisted Sassafras Turned Knob Walking Cane is up to the task.
The wood that is used to create this stick is incredibly well polished.
It feels so smooth and comfortable in my hand.
Available in two lengths, I was able to get the size that is perfect for my height.
Additionally, it’s possible to add all sorts of personalization and accessories to these walking sticks.
I added my monogram and the combi-spike tip so that my cane would be a true go-anywhere accessory.
If you like, you also can add a cane strap or other embellishments like an American flag medallion or a pewter star.
Brazos even offers a thermometer, so if you’re concerned about the temperature, that might be a sensible addition for you.
One of the things that I find so appealing about this cane is that it has so much personality.
I’ve seen plenty of people walking around with a plain, impersonal cane made from metal or another less-imaginative material, but it’s rare to see someone with such an outstanding and unique accessory in their hand.
I guess what I’m saying is that I appreciate that this cane was made from a material that once was a part of a living tree.
In some ways, I feel like it’s an extension of nature, and that fits in well with my lifestyle.
Plus, anyone can see how sturdy and dependable this cane is in addition to being well made.
This is probably going to end up a family heirloom for my country-loving relatives.
Initially, I had planned to only use my walking cane while going on my long rambles through the countryside.
Now I take it pretty much everywhere I go.
When I bring it into town, people are always impressed with it, and I can’t stop myself from telling the story.
I also tell them, only if I’m asked, how much I paid for my stick.
It never fails to astound people that this impressive and functional piece of art costs so little.
I think it just might be the smartest purchase I’ve ever made.
I have no intention of ever giving up my independent country lifestyle.
My walking stick is one more tool that makes that possible.
Oak Wood Derby Walking Cane With Oak Shaft And Brass Embossed Collar
If you are looking for a handsome, durable walking cane, look no further than the Oak Wood Derby Walking Cane With Oak Shaft And Brass Embossed Collar from Fashionable Canes.
This cane is as functional as it is beautiful.
The secret is in the derby style handle, which is both easy to grip and balances like a dream on the edge of any table.
No longer will you have to worry about your cane slipping to the ground and embarrassing you during a fancy dinner out.
You also won’t have to tuck it away and run the risk of forgetting about it!
Your cane will be right where you left it, securely clamped on to the table.
The handle also makes it easy to maneuver around with.
Many canes will slip right out of your hands at the first disturbance or slippery ground, but not the Oak Wood Derby Walking Cane With Oak Shaft And Brass Embossed Collar!
The derby handle keeps it right by your side, no matter what kind of terrain you are up against.
The design also allows you to keep up with others who might be walking briskly without the aid of a cane.
You will never worry about falling behind again!
This cane is also lovingly carved from oak, which gives it a beautiful appearance as well as makes it sturdy and largely immune to many different types of wear and tear.
The oak is honey-colored, but the grain is darker, giving the cane a sophisticated appearance that contrasts the darker grain against the naturally light color of the wood.
The result is striking and sophisticated; the perfect complement to any outfit.
This is a cane that could accompany you to the most prestigious occasion and fit right in perfectly.
Such a fabulous cane needs some incredible ornamentation, which is exactly what this cane gets with a solid brass collar that connects the derby handle to the staff of the cane.
This simple collar is subtly marked with the Royal Canes Company logo.
It is muted and understated sophistication, the last word in class.
This cane can be customized to your weight and height, although some maximum limits to apply.
The cane itself weighs in at just under a pound, which is great for users who need a lightweight cane that can still stand up to the rough and tumble nature of life.
This cane is also reasonably priced as well.
You can get your hands on it for under $40.
It’s a small investment in your overall happiness and mobility, and well worth it!
I would recommend this cane to anyone.
It’s handsome but simple enough to go with any different outfit, and it is able to stand up to different types of terrain and wear and tear.
Best of all, the derby handle will keep the cane right where you need it; by your side at all times.
10 Things to Love About Rural Living
I don’t have to spend 10% of each day commuting.
For years I did it in the morning, and then I did it at night, and I repeated the cycle five days a week.
What a waste of time, energy, and emotional well-being.
Nowadays, my vehicle of choice is a tractor and there’s hardly any traffic!
I am happy when I wake up.
I don’t dread a new day.
Each day is a new one full of adventure, projects and challenges.
The old routine called the “daily grind” is history.
I live in a safe environment.
I leave my keys in my truck.
My house is unlocked.
My dogs are the best doorbell I’ve ever had!
I know the history of much of my food nowadays.
No more worry about food scares and where my food is coming from.
My food doesn’t have unknown additives, hormones, enhancers, and other stuff that just isn’t good for you.
I will live a longer life than if I had stayed in the city.
My food has flavor, too.
Just try one of my tomatoes and compare it to one from a supermarket.
Mine has flavor…
Things are growing all around me.
I am surrounded by real life—living things.
I can look at my garden and watch my own livestock from my kitchen window.
On my way into town one day, I saw literally hundreds of deer and wild turkeys.
I really enjoy watching the eagles soaring above me as I work on my property.
My kids are learning about life.
They know where their food is coming from, and they are responsible for some of that.
They are able to follow their desires and passions, whether it is growing food, flowers, or animals.
Their world is unlimited.
They run around and play and I don’t have to worry.
They have become much more self-sufficient and confident.
They are no longer addicted to the Social Media, text messaging, or video games.
My family is somewhat protected from potential issues in the future.
All is not well in the economic, political and global environments.
Unemployment, home foreclosures, civil unrest… are things really getting better?
The civil consequences of all of this will be hitting the urban areas much more than the rural areas.
I can be out hunting in five minutes.
I can be catching a fish in thirty minutes.
Couldn’t do that in my suburban neighborhood.
I know my neighbors.
They are ready to help me with a phone call and when we pass on the road, they always make time to stop and say hello.
In my last neighborhood, I barely knew or even saw my neighbors.
And the top reason I love rural living: The Importance of Family Traditions
Long, long ago, December 25 was designated as a day to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus.
Over the years, other cultural and personal traditions became a part of Christmas celebrations.
Our family embraces both the sincere appreciation of Jesus in our lives and the joy of participating in many fun and meaningful aspects of the season.
We stretch our celebration into about six weeks, from the day after American Thanksgiving in late November into the first week of January.
Each year we attend some new events, try some new recipes, and make some new decorations.
But the basis of our celebration of the season is a cornerstone of family traditions.
Sense of belonging
Family traditions give a family a sense of belonging, routine, and anticipation.
They provide a cohesiveness that can bring everyone together no matter what the circumstances.
If a teenager is feeling like an outsider or wondering which planet his parents came from, family traditions can bind everyone together in shared history and memories.
Someone going through a tough time can relax and be reminded that he or she is not alone.
Newcomers to the family can be invited to introduce some of their own traditions as the family melds together.
A new family being formed by remarriage can encourage the family blending by incorporating traditions from each merging family and then creating new traditions together.
With turmoil all around us in the world and even in our communities, there’s something dependable and faithful and even comforting about participating in a family tradition.
It means something to count on, something to anticipate, a feeling that “I’m a part of this family and this family is a part of me.”
Traditions also promote expectations, which can be good or bad.
In our family we try to focus on the positive ones and eliminate or adapt those with heavy strings attached.
We’ve also kept an eye on interests and abilities as years go by and people change.
Some traditions just die of old age or are replaced by more appropriate or comfortable activities.
Family traditions, old and new
In the past decades, as we shaped our own family’s winter holiday traditions, we carried over a few from our own childhoods.
Each of us had always gotten a tangerine at the bottom of our Christmas stockings.
We both had fun memories of annual visits from “Santa” as part of Christmas Eve preparations and Christmas morning surprises.
Holiday music was played in both of our childhood homes; local concerts and Christmas Eve candlelight services were special events.
On the other hand, we dropped with a thud the traditional fruitcakes of our childhood.
We tweaked the typical Christmas Eve and Christmas Day menus of our parents and grandparents.
We added activities like our annual trip to a rural tree farm to select and cut down the “perfect” tree.
We made our own set of traditions and our own memories as we raised our children.
Today they do the same in their homes, keeping some of our traditions alive and adding others that fit their families.
The four younger families in our nuclear family have developed their own traditions.
Each family has maintained some of the parents’ childhood traditions and initiated new ones tailored for the family members and the changing times.
And even those traditions are fine-tuned as the children–our grandchildren–grow older, bringing home their own ideas and indicating their favorite traditions and the ones they could do without.
Nowadays, three generations of our family celebrate the season together.
First a flurry of family emails goes around with discussions of when and where to gather together, what food to share, what type of gift exchange to have.
Then we start the “doing.”
We bake cookies and share special holiday food–both old favorites and new recipes.
We have enjoyed making tree ornaments and other decorations like painted plaster Christmas village houses and decorated graham-cracker “candy houses.”
Some of us even watch sappy holiday movies; Jim and Marie’s annual favorites include It’s a Wonderful Life, The Christmas Story, Christmas with the Kranks, The Santa Clause series, and our most recent additions, Mrs. Miracle and Call Me Mrs. Miracle.
It’s never too late to start initiating family traditions.
Any favorite activity, project, or food your family enjoys is a candidate for a tradition.
If you’re short on ideas, ask friends about their traditions or search blogs, magazines, and books for others.
We gave each of our children a tree ornament every year so that when they left home as adults they had their own sets of decorations to start with.
We still give each family an ornament most years and give each grandchild one as well.
Some of the ornaments have been purchased, but most were handmade.
Usually the ornament has some significance either for the individual child or for the family.
Our kids’ collections have included their favorite animals or pets, college logo ornaments, symbols of that year’s family vacation, and a shiny key to signify the first driver’s license.
Last year Marie made felt hens for the grandkids, using the color of each child’s favorite chicken in our flock.
This year our farm kids will have little piggy ornaments to signify the new farm project of the year.
Over the years we have brought home small tokens from vacation spots for our own ornament collection.
If they weren’t already tree decorations, a bit of ribbon or other adornment was added to what was originally a fridge magnet or key ring.
Nowadays our tree is like a walk down memory lane that evokes wonderful memories from years gone by.
Celebrating Christmas as family
We encourage each of our four young families to spend a leisurely Christmas morning at home, so our extended family gathering is usually on a weekend in December or even early January.
It’s not unusual for some families to stay overnight, and we may even have a “Christmas Eve” and a “Christmas Day” over two days so we can fit in all three of our favorite holiday meals.
As the family grows, the gift-giving changes.
Some years the adult kids draw names among themselves.
We usually have some kind of silly or serious gift bag exchange so Marie can direct whatever new pass-and-steal game she’s discovered for that year.
And there is one gift that keeps on giving–we never know from one year to the next which of the women is going to receive the 80s style hot pink shoes!
Christmas Eve appetizer buffet
Though we have a sit-down dinner on Christmas Day, we like to keep things simple on Christmas Eve.
We can graze and eat when we’re hungry, there’s always plenty for friends who stop by, and best of all–preparation and cleanup are fairly simple.
Everyone brings some type of appetizer to contribute.
Nowadays we enjoy this buffet as the main meal of our family gathering.
Our favorite must-haves include slow cooker sweet and sour meatballs; veggie trays with pickles and–of course–olives for fingers; pigs in blankets made with refrigerated tubes of croissant dough and cocktail wieners; and other specialties introduced over the years.
Our kids who married into the family have added their favorites from their own family gatherings.
And oh will there be Christmas cookies, including old traditions like spritz, Jan Hagel, and frosted sugar cookies; more recently acquired favorites; and some nostalgic holiday treats we adopted during the years we lived in Germany.
As our children developed their own styles in the kitchen, we discovered who had a flair for this or that.
Now the oldest grandchildren are beginning to contribute their specialties.
Let’s just say there’s never a shortage of delicious and appetizing food at our gatherings.
Birthday cake for Jesus
We start our Christmas morning breakfast with some kind of a cake, with candles and all.
Over the years we had coffee cake and yeast rolls.
We finally settled on our now-traditional “cake” of homemade cinnamon rolls in a large pan.
We sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus and blow out the candles for him.
Days before Christmas, Marie shapes the cinnamon rolls and freezes them unbaked.
On Christmas Eve, she sets the frozen rolls out to thaw overnight.
In the morning she pops them in the oven and they’re fresh and hot for breakfast.
Sharing the joy
When the kids were young we also had neighborhood birthday parties for Jesus.
Each guest brought a toy for the town’s giving tree or groceries for the local food bank.
This gave the children a sense of reaching out to others as well as a reminder of the focus of the season.
Other ways of giving to the community include taking children’s names from a “giving tree” and selecting gifts.
Sharing groceries or prepared food with a local family; and caroling in the neighborhood or at a special care facility.
Reindeer cookies with Grammy
One of our traditions is just several years old.
It involves Grammy and all the grandkids, though Papa and parents are allowed to watch and help little ones.
Grammy saw a fun cookie in a magazine before she became a grandma and filed the idea away for later.
Now the grandkids from toddlers to teens look forward to baking day.
We try to get as many of the grandkids together at one time; this year we made the cookies on Thanksgiving after dinner dishes had been cleared away.
You may have seen reindeer cookies in various colors and forms.
Here’s how we make Reindeer cookies
Round slices/cutouts or flattened balls of brown cookie dough (gingerbread, spice, peanut butter, etc.)
Small pretzel twists for antlers
Colored candies for facial features–including red for noses
Separate baking sheet or labeled parchment paper for each child
Imagination, a good sense of humor, and flexibility as the kids create some interesting “reindeer”
Special apron for each child; AbbyKate Designs will embroider names on cotton aprons.
Don’t forget one for Mom or Grandma!
Family traditions may be deliberately developed or spontaneously adopted.
They may be serious or funny, simple or complicated, old-fashioned or modern and trendy.
The important thing is that they are valuable to your family in some way and they evoke warm memories as years go by.
And by the way, family traditions are not just for Christmas!
Any holiday, birthday or other annual occasion can include traditional aspects, and other special days can be “invented.”
Maybe you serve green pancakes for St. Pat’s, or hunt for pumpkins in October.
Though we’ve seen a few snowflakes this week, spring is definitely here.
With it comes fresh energy and enthusiasm for outdoor projects and growing things.
There is a long list of things to do and thankfully, more daylight hours in which to do them.
To our delight, our kids and grandkids have begun their spring-through-fall season of treks to the farm, which slowed down in winter to one visit for Christmas.
A new adventure for us this spring is hatching our own chicks.
Last year we raised 42 hatchery chicks, most of which were two days old when they arrived.
We got that chick-rearing process down pat and decided to go a step farther this year.
We bought an incubator.
Although one can buy fertile hatching eggs, we want to reproduce our colored broilers and we do have a fine specimen of a rooster and several hens.
We are also interested in crossing the heavy broiler genes with our dual purpose hens for a possibly meatier egg layer.
So the lucky rooster gained some more hens for his harem.
We looked at the calendar to determine when the weather would be conducive to chicks moving outdoors at four weeks of age.
Backtracking from there, we decided that a late March hatch date would be just about right.
We collected a number of eggs and got them started in the incubator.
The gestation time is 21 days, but it’s suggested that eggs be “candled” early on to see which ones contain viable embryos.
Candling involves shining a light on the egg to show the air cell, blood vessels, and even little chicky eyes.
It’s also possible to see the embryos moving around and tiny hearts beating.
So at one week we candled the eggs and removed several undeveloped ones.
Again at two weeks, we took out a couple of eggs.
On the 18th day, when the eggs should be “locked down” and undisturbed, we had 12 viable eggs.
An interesting thing had happened early in the month.
A few days after we set the incubator eggs, one or our hens went broody.
This means that she focused on becoming a mother and glued herself to a clutch of eggs, leaving the nest only about once a day to eat, drink, and take care of other business.
She had no idea that her eggs were not fertile and would never hatch.
Tiny Pigwidgeon (“Piggy”) is our smallest hen, a petite Dark Brahma banty.
She was faithful and determined, and in three weeks I only saw her off the nest one time for a brief jaunt outside.
Hopefully she took a break at least once a day.
But a broody hen lives for one thing only: to hatch and raise some baby chicks.
We decided to give Piggy half of the incubator eggs in hopes that she would hatch them.
So on Day 18, we removed her clutch of infertile eggs to replace them with 6 viable incubator eggs.
What a shock to see that she had accumulated 13 eggs in her nest, stealing the eggs her roommates had laid on the other side of the nestbox and hiding them all under her fluffy body and wings.
Day 21 came and went, and by Day 23 three chicks had hatched in the incubator.
But not a peep came from Piggy’s private nest.
Unfortunately by Day 26 she hadn’t managed to hatch any chicks.
Perhaps she was off the nest too long, or the coop was just too cold, or maybe all six of her eggs just happened to fail in the last days of gestation.
We didn’t do eggtopsies, so we’ll never know for sure.
Since Piggy had been brooding for three weeks already, with very little exercise and less food and water than normal, we removed her from the nest and took her private little brooder box out of the coop.
We told her to go be a regular chicken for a while, scratching and pecking outside and regaining her strength.
Reluctantly, she complied.
It didn’t take her long to remember the joys of fresh air, sunshine, and treats to be discovered in the chicken pen.
If Piggy goes broody again, we’ll just give her some fertile eggs to start with and leave her to brood them.
Piggy has two banty roommates, a Silkie and a Cochin—breeds that tend to become broody and will happily raise standard chicks, unaware that the chicks will soon pass them in size.
We also have two Buff Orpingtons that could become broody as well.
The colored broilers we want to reproduce are not known for broodiness, so we may need some able foster mamas.
Hopefully we will experience both natural and mechanized hatching and brooding and have the joy of watching some of our hens putter around with little chicks toddling after them.
Today we’re starting our second incubator batch but won’t be surprised if spring weather also brings on the broodiness in the hen house.
Meanwhile, these six little chicks are hanging out in our brooder in the barn, waiting for the day they can join their banty aunties in the coop and run.
The four yellow chicks are hatchery White Leghorn pullets (young females) we bought to increase our laying flock.
The two brown ones hatched a day apart in our incubator.
The front one is full colored broiler, and the one in the back is a cross of colored broiler and Rhode Island Red.
Spring Is Trying to Spring
Twice a year I feel that my life opens up for new beginnings.
The first is in January, the start of a brand new calendar year.
The other is springtime, when so much outdoors seems fresh and new.
When my kids were at home, there were also June and September, with the beginning of summer vacation and later the start of school in the fall.
But now the school year doesn’t affect me as much as it did in those days.
January is not far behind me, and the new year has almost passed through its first quarter.
Now it is March, which I usually consider the beginning of spring.
But this year, almost daily the evening news still brings a report of a snowstorm or two somewhere in North America.
Something seems late.
Is it winter that’s ending late, or spring that’s arriving late?
Or are they one and the same? Such deep thoughts on such a complex subject, I know 🙂
I see signs though, that spring is definitely trying to spring.
Bulbs have sprouted, trees are budding.
I think I even heard a frog croaking the other day.
And every once in a while, the sun shines so brightly and the air smells so fresh that it seems just…like…spring.
What new beginnings will you embark on this season?
Will you conjure up some ideas in your mind and sketch some out on paper?
Will you try to grow a new plant, or raise a baby animal?
Will you learn a new skill or hone a long-forgotten one?
Here at our place we’re hoping to hatch some chicks, plant a new garden, and put in some fruit trees.
Right now we’re trying to finish some indoor projects so we can give our all to the outdoor tasks.
A little fencing here, a little construction there, and a lot of thought to our outdoor living spaces.
There’s so much we’d like to do before fall comes around again.
Even though it’s long past Christmas, I’m making a list and checking it twice.
Roosters crow at the crack of dawn and all through the day.
If you like this sound, it’s a good thing.
A rooster will offer protection.
A rooster just looks cool—and maybe colorful–strutting around the farm.
Good reasons to raise backyard chickens without a rooster
You won’t want to consider getting a rooster if you want eggs for your table but do not want to hatch backyard chickens or eat fertile eggs.
If you and/or your neighbors don’t like the sound of a rooster crowing all day long, do not get a rooster.
If the noise won’t bother you, consider how close you live to your neighbors. Even if you are somewhat close, it may not be an issue. Consider where the chickens and rooster are on your property in relation to your neighbors.
Consider also if the neighbors will only hear your rooster if they are outside. They may not hear him when they are indoors.
If you really can’t decide if you should get a rooster and are okay with not ever getting a rooster, you can ask your closest neighbors if they would mind.
However, before you do this, be very sure you will be listen if they say no. If you ever think you will want to get one, it’s best not to ask for their permission.
Don’t get a rooster if your neighborhood, HOA covenants or municipal regulations prohibit roosters.
If you have fewer than eight backyard chickens, do not consider getting a rooster.
Consider special care the rooster will need. If you don’t want to remove the rooster’s spurs— a fairly simple procedure — from time to time, then don’t get one.
Do you feel a need for personal protection as well as livestock defense?
Guardian dogs will bond with and protect humans as well as stock.
Donkeys and llamas will not normally accompany people as they go about their chores and tasks.
They will prevent entry of unwelcome people as well as animals. They will patrol your home and yard.
Some of the LGD breeds are wonderful with children.
How many guardian animals do you need?
Donkeys and llamas are much more effective individually than they are in pairs.
Two donkeys or two llamas will bond to each other more strongly than to the stock they are to protect, and will usually be less attentive guardians than a lone donkey or llama would be.
Therefore, for best defensive support, individual donkeys or llamas should be with small flocks and herds of stock.
Livestock guardian dogs, on the other hand, work best in pairs and teams and will communicate from one to another as they strategically oppose intruders.
You can pen multiple LGDs with large flocks and large herds.
What type of fencing do you have or are you willing to install?
You can easily add donkeys and llamas to most livestock pastures or paddocks.
They require the same type of fencing as medium to large livestock.
A livestock guardian dog needs an effective fence to prevent it from pursuing predators outside your territory and from expanding its territory to include neighbors.
Are you willing to provide separate feed and individual attention?
Donkeys and llamas will generally eat the same grass or feed as livestock they share pasture with.
LGDs have different food needs from those of the stock and must be fed separately.
Raise donkeys and llamas as livestock. They don’t need human guidance.
Dogs require more time and effort in training and maintenance.
For the most successful operation, an LGD must have a working relationship with its human alpha figure(s) — usually one or more family members or a farm manager.
Special donkey and llama breeds?
There aren’t special breeds of donkeys or llamas that qualify them as livestock guardians.
In general, all donkeys and llamas have the urge to fight off canines.
The livestock guardian dog category includes several specific breeds of dogs.
Many other breeds of dogs will bark at intruders and chase them away; however, only the LGD breeds are instinctively wired to bond with stock, relentlessly deter intrusion, and fight to the death if necessary to defend their stock.
The LGD breeds include the Akbash, Anatolian Shepherd, Great Pyrenees, Kangal, Komondor, Kuvasz, Maremma Sheepdog, and Tibetan Mastiff.
Donkey, llama, or livestock guardian dog?
Choosing a livestock guardian animal is a personal one that depends on the individual farm, surroundings, and livestock requiring protection.
Many people have their favorites and stories of successful and ineffective guardian animals.
The important thing is to consider your predator situation and your resources, planning accordingly to protect your livestock.
The basics of caring for livestock may well be to get a livestock guardian animal. Whichever animal you choose, they can become invaluable to your family.
But not only is it a book, but it is also a guide that helps you plan actionable steps.
Want to know how?
From a quarter of an acre, a backyard homestead can harvest:
50 pounds of wheat
60 pounds of fruit
2,000 pounds of vegetables
280 pounds of pork
75 pounds of nuts
The “Foot-in-the-Door” to Homesteading
The Backyard Homestead covers a myriad of topics including an A-Z veggie guide, basic fruit growing, grains, nuts, herbs, poultry for meat & eggs, livestock for meat and dairy, beekeeping, homebrewing, and more.
Particularly helpful is the way the book is laid out.
Each section not only has the information you need, but charts, diagrams, calculations, comparisons, and pretty much anything else you need to get started.
Practical Help You Can Put Into Action:
For example, a common question when people are looking to start gardening on a serious food-production level (as opposed to recreational) is how much do I grow?
That question is not an easy one to answer, but they have a good list of veggies, and how much space to allot per person you are growing for.
Not only does it teach you how to produce these goods, but also what to do with them.
It includes recipes, instructions for preservation, and tons of illustrations that demonstrate how to do things, instead of just using words to describe the process.
Particularly of interest to me was one section with a visual layout of how you could produce quite a bit of food on a quarter acre lot (the above example).
This is particularly encouraging because many people feel like they can’t homestead because they live in the city or that it isn’t worthwhile – but truly, you can really do a lot with a small space.
The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan is a Keeper
I will be keeping this book close at hand in the next few years as I continue to expand my homestead and my skills.
The beauty of The Backyard Homestead is that it contains enough information to get you started and going in the direction you want, but it doesn’t have excessive information that you might not be interested in.
For instance, it has quite a bit of information on getting started with cheese making, including basic hard and soft cheese recipes.
I myself am quite interested in cheese making, but I would probably be overwhelmed if I had 100+ recipes to choose from, especially since I’d mostly be interested in a basic farmhouse cheddar anyway.
All in all, this book is a great investment and has lots of up-to-date information about a good variety of different topics.
If you are looking for a resource that will help get you off to a running start on your homestead, look no further – this is exactly what you need.
So Much Sky by Karen Weir-Jimerson
A visitor to Karen Weir-Jimerson’s Iowa farm got out of her car and remarked, “You have so much sky.”
And so was born the name of Karen’s book, a collection of “essays on the fun and folly of living in the country.”
In the book’s introduction Karen says, “I may have grown up in town, but I’m a country girl now.
Due to rambunctious dogs, marauding deer, gophers, and general establishment issues, some of the fruit trees we’d planted last year were looking sad by winter’s end.
The Fruit Gardener’s Bible contains thorough information about pruning as well as excellent illustrations and diagrams.
But more importantly, the author put us at ease by indicating that routine pruning includes trimming off branches and twigs damaged by wildlife.
What we were doing was not unusual. Before planting our new trees and berry plants, we used the book as a guide for our soil preparation and planting.
Again, we were not disappointed with the information and detailed instructions contained in the book.
From planning to planting to harvest…and more!
The Fruit Gardener’s Bible is divided into four parts: Getting Started with Fruits and Nuts; The Small Fruits: Berries, Bushes, and Brambles; Tree Fruits and Nuts; and Growing Healthy Fruits, Nuts, and Berries.
Part one is a general introduction to fruit and nut plants, a guide to selection, and seasonal care.
How do I plan an orchard?
How much space do fruit and nut trees need?
When should I prune?
It’s all there, along with diagrams of sample planting arrangements and advice on fitting fruit and berries into a small yard.
Parts two and three include a chapter for each fruit and tree nut family.
For each group, there is information on planting, care, and harvest.
The book is full of beautiful color photos and sketches.
Helpful charts include Fast Facts and Tips for Growing various fruits and nuts.
In part four we were pleasantly surprised to see some wonderful info on soil improvement, pest management, and dealing with wildlife.
A helpful glossary follows this section, explaining the definitions of many terms used in the book.
Plenty of new information
We’ve been growing tree fruits and berries since childhood, but still we had a lot to learn from The Fruit Gardener’s Bible.
For instance, careful spacing can maximize pollination by honey bees.
Marigolds planted among strawberry plants not only attract beneficial insects but may also help repel soil nematodes.
We didn’t know that apples should be stored separately from all other fruits and vegetables.
According to The Fruit Gardener’s Bible, “Apples give off ethylene gas, which can cause other fruits to ripen more quickly, potatoes to sprout, and carrots to turn bitter.”
Apples can also be affected by other produce.
“Potatoes can give apples a musty flavor.
Strong odors from cabbages and turnips and onions can be absorbed by apples and pears.”
So this book is a big help not only in our garden, but in our root cellar and kitchen as well.
Those two chapters are followed by nine chapters devoted to specific individual animals or groups: chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese, rabbits, honey bees, goats, sheep, pigs, and dairy cows and beef cattle.
Each livestock chapter includes information on selection, housing, and basic care and feeding.
There are also guidelines for processing meat or harvesting products such as eggs, honey, and wool.
Illustrations of housing, handling, feeding options, and animal body parts accompany instructions and how-tos.