Fall and Winter Vegetable Gardens How to

Hydroponics garden

Last Updated on

Series of posts on fall and winter vegetable gardens.

We included lots of info on planting, structures, great pruning shears review and winter garden care.

Many of you were inspired to keep your summer gardens going longer or to plant seeds just for fall and winter harvesting. 

Again this fall there has been a lot of interest in extended-season gardening.

Rural Living Today’s Fall and Winter Vegetable Gardens

Part 1: Intro to Fall and Winter Gardening

Part 2: Protective Materials and Structures

Part 3: Getting Ready for Fall and Winter

Part 4: Frost Protection

Find all of our extended season gardening links on one page here.

Growing Fresh Vegetables in Fall and Winter

Many of us grow vegetables during the summer growing season.

But did you know that with a little extra TLC you can harvest fresh food throughout a chilly fall and winter?

Where do you live?

Fall and Winter Vegetable Gardens
Fall and Winter Vegetable Gardens

In areas with moderate winters, many plants can be grown year round out in the open garden.

In fact, summer may be too hot for the cool-season greens and other veggies.

You may be able to put in a fall crop of heat-loving plants like tomatoes, okra, peppers, and squash for harvest in the mild days of winter.

On the flip side, where winters are cold and frosts are inevitable, fall signals the end of life for those warm-season plants.

But that doesn’t mean the fresh veggie season has to end!

With special care, we can extend the harvest of summer crops.

And what’s more, many greens and other veggies can be grown through the fall and winter, providing fresh produce even on the snowiest of days.

Four keys to success:

Selecting the right plants and varieties

Starting with mature plants

Planting in a sunny, accessible site

Protecting plants from the elements

No-till Gardening: Your Complete Guide to An Easier Way to Grow

Which plants to grow

For the most part, the focus is on leafy greens and root vegetables.

See our list of suggested plants below.

Within each plant group, some varieties thrive better than others in frigid temps.

Here are some general guidelines.

Many root crops may be left in the ground, mulched well, and harvested as need throughout the winter.

Hardy vegetables such as carrots, kale, leeks, and mâche may need nothing more than poly hoops.

Less hardy vegetables and herbs may require a cold frame to continue providing fresh greens for several weeks or months.

Perennial herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme) may remain green longer in this environment, delaying dormancy.

Fruiting warm-season plants like beans, eggplant, peppers, squash, and tomatoes may continue to bear or ripen fruit in a heated greenhouse.

When selecting varieties, look for words such as “cold tolerant” and “cold hardy.”

The resources listed at the end of this post indicate some preferred varieties for fall and winter gardening.

When to start seeds

All plants should reach maturity before cold weather sets in.

Some will continue to grow in protective structures; others will be in a “holding pattern,” maintaining their freshness until harvest.

Seeds should be planted well before the average date of first frost.

In many Northern Hemisphere areas, ideal sowing dates fall between July and September.

When time is short, select varieties that mature quickly.

Some seeds may be sown outdoors during hot summer weather; others prefer to germinate at cooler temps and can be started under lights in a room that remains in the 70s F./low 20s C.

Ideal last sowing date for a specific vegetable:

If you don’t already know it, find the average date of first autumn frost in your area.

Note the number of “days to maturity” listed on the seed packet or catalog info.

Add an extra 10-14 days to account for fewer hours of daylight in late summer and fall (seed packet info is based on spring/summer planting).

On a calendar, start with the average date of first frost in your area and count backward to reach the optimal planting date.

Example: My packet of mesclun (mixed greens) seeds indicates the plants are ready to harvest in 28 days.

I add on 14 days because I’m planting them in the late summer.

Starting with our average first frost date of September 15, I count back 42 days and land at August 4, the ideal planting date.

I may plant a little later than that, knowing that the seedlings will be nearly mature when the first frost hits.

I can cover them with a protective material as that time approaches.

Where to plant

Accessibility is the first factor to consider, as winter veggies will do you no good if you can’t reach them!

Many people like to site their structures near the house or a path that is well-used even in winter.

Root crops buried under deep mulch can be placed anywhere, but plants growing above ground should be located where the sun will warm them on bright winter days.

A south-facing slope is ideal.

The sun’s rays will reach through clear and opaque row cover, polyethylene, plastic, and glass coverings.

Water should also be accessible nearby.

Though your plants won’t need much water during the winter, they’ll need to be nurtured as they mature in late summer and early fall.

How to protect plants

Several types of materials and structures provide protection from frigid air and frost.

Plastic or glass cloches (jars, jugs, bowls placed over individual plants for light frosts)

Mulch (straw, leaves, pine needles)

Row cover fabric (flat or hooped)

Plastic or polyethylene hoops (film placed over rigid hoops)

Cold frame (protective sides with clear glass or plastic lid)

Greenhouse (unheated or heated)

Using two or more materials together will increase the protection.

For instance, cover mulch with row cover fabric.

Place a poly hoop over row cover.

Put a cold frame or poly hoop inside a greenhouse.

vegetables and herbs grown or harvested during fall and winter seasons
vegetables and herbs grown or harvested during fall and winter seasons

Vegetables and herbs grown or harvested during fall and winter seasons

The vegetables and herbs in the following list can usually be grown or harvested during the fall and winter seasons.

Whenever possible, select a quick-maturing variety.

Also consider your growing structure and the height of each plant, selecting a more compact variety for a short cold frame.

  • Arugula
  • Beets
  • Bok Choi
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Chard
  • Chervil
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Claytonia
  • Collards
  • Endive
  • Escarole
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leaf Lettuce/Mesclun
  • Mâche/corn salad
  • Mibuna
  • Mizuna
  • Mustard
  • Oregano
  • Pak Choi
  • Parsley
  • Parsnip
  • Peas
  • Radicchio
  • Radishes (especially Diakon type)
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Scallions/Green onions
  • Spinach
  • Thyme
  • Turnips

Most of the plants listed above can be directly sown outdoors or started indoors.

However, some prefer a cool germination period.

If your daytime outdoor temperature is above 80 degrees F./ 26 degrees C.

Start the following seedlings indoors

  • Arugula
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Chives
  • Claytonia
  • Kale
  • Mâche/corn salad
  • Mibuna
  • Mizuna
  • Mustard
  • Oregano
  • Radishes
  • Sage
  • Spinach
  • Thyme

Favorites of experienced winter gardeners

Niki Jabbour’s Top Ten*

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Mâche
  • Carrots
  • Leeks/scallions
  • Winter lettuce
  • Beets
  • Tatsoi
  • Asian greens

Home Garden Seed Association’s Top Ten**

  • Beets
  • Calendula
  • Cilantro
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Radish
  • Salad greens
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard

Helpful resources

How to Make a Heat Mat for Seed Starting

**“Sow Seeds for Fall Garden” from National Garden Bureau at GRIT Magazine

Growing Fresh Veggies in Fall and Winter
Growing Fresh Veggies in Fall and Winter

“Cold Frame Gardening” at Kitchen Gardener Magazine

Protective Materials and Structures

In Part 1 of Growing Fresh Veggies in Fall and Winter, we talked about the basics.

Here’s more information on the main types of frost protectors and links to some sources to get you started.

Cloches – How Cloches work:

Protect individual plants from light frosts; raise temperature slightly

How to use Cloches:

Place over individual plants when frost is expected, remove when temps are above freezing.

Usually placed in the evening and removed in the morning.

Can also be used with early spring plant starts.

Sources of Cloches:

Clean glass jars and bowls; plastic jugs and bottles with bottoms removed; manufactured cloches

Mulches – How mulch works:

Insulate plants in ground from freezing temps; maintain moisture in soil

How to use mulch

Layer thickly on top of mature root and bulb crops.

Sources of Mulch

Compost, straw, deciduous leaves, evergreen needles

How row cover fabrics work:

Insulate plants and soil from frost; raise temperature slightly; protect from insect and bird damage.

Water and sunlight pass through them.

How to use row cover fabrics

Lay over plants (flat over small seedlings, loosely over tall plants); use over hoop frame.

Since they “breathe” they may be used day and night—no need to remove when temps are warm.

Poly low tunnels and hoops
Poly low tunnels and hoops

Can also be used during spring and summer seasons.

Poly low tunnels and hoops

Insulate plants and soil from frost; raise temperature; maintain humidity

How to use hoops and tunnels

Install hoop supports and secure poly film over hoops; use drip irrigation on soil or lift cover to water plants.

Leave ends open during cool weather, close ends during frigid weather.

Poly tunnels may be used day and night—no need to remove when temps are warm.

DIY Garden Covers

Extend Your Growing Season by Barbara Pleasant at Mother Earth News

Use Low Tunnels to Grow Veggies in Winter:

Quick Hoops by Eliot Coleman at Mother Earth News

How cold frames work:

Insulate plants and soil from frost; raise temperature; maintain humidity

How to use cold frames

Construct or purchase cold frame with solid sides and clear glass or plastic cover that can be propped open for temperature and humidity control.

DIY cold frames
DIY cold frames

DIY cold frames

Can easily be made with wood, straw bales, other materials and a window or shower door cover.

Make a Cold Frame for Herbs (great cold frame info for veggies too) by Barbara Pleasant at The Herb Companion

Cold Frame Plans (wood) by Betsy Matheson Symanietz at Mother Earth News

A Cold Frame to Build (straw bales) by Paul Gardener at GRIT

Cold Frame Gardening at KitchenGardenerMagazine 

How greenhouse high tunnels work:

Sun shines through clear glass, plastic or polycarbonate walls, creating a warm and humid environment for plants.

May be heated or unheated.

How to use greenhouse high tunnels

Start seedlings, harden off seedlings started in warmer room, extend production of warm-season plants, overwinter hardy plants.

DIY greenhouse high tunnels

Planning and Building a Greenhouse from Maryland and West Virginia Cooperative Extensions

Getting Ready for Fall and Winter Gardening
Getting Ready for Fall and Winter Gardening

The Benefits of Building a High Tunnel by George Devault at GRIT

Getting Ready for Fall and Winter Gardening

In Part 1 of this series we talked about the basics of growing veggies in cool fall and cold winter temps.

Part 2 was an overview of the materials and structures that protect plants from cold-weather damage.

Today we’re moving toward the planting stage with some more steps to take.

Prepare your soil before planting

If you’re using an existing garden bed for fall and winter plants, it’s a good idea to add some compost before planting.

The summer growing season saps nutrients from the soil and may affect the texture of the soil as well.

Compost will improve the texture and add some nutrients without overloading the soil with fertilizer or requiring decomposition.

When using fresh topsoil or planting mix in a new bed or cold frame, amend as you would for a spring or summer planting season.

This will vary according to the texture and nutrient content of the soil or mix.

If you’d like to test your soil first, use a home kit, local test lab, or a mail-in service such as University of Massachusetts Soil Lab (our favorite–fast and reasonably priced).

Wherever legumes (beans and peas) have grown the previous season, the soil is probably rich in nitrogen, as legume plants actually instill nitrogen in the soil.

Start seedlings indoors or outdoors
Start seedlings indoors or outdoors

This is a good location to plant leafy greens.

Start seedlings indoors or outdoors

While local stores may not carry seeds in late summer, mail order seed companies usually maintain their ordering and shipping processes throughout the year.

Some seeds are slow to germinate—or won’t sprout at all—when soil is hot.

If your late summer brings heat and scorching sun, it might be easier to start those seeds indoors in a room that’s cooler than the outdoor temps.

Greens and other seeds typically planted in spring fall into this category.

Warmth-loving seeds can be directly sown even in a hot July and August.

Short-season plants may be sown in September as long as the plants will be near maturity by the time cold weather sets in.

Requests From Our Readers: Creating Root Cellars

Plan protection strategy and get structures ready

In Part 2 of Growing Fresh Veggies in Fall and Winter we talked about several ways to protect plants from frost and cold.

Using two or more together creates opportunity for many combinations as the temperature changes.

Here’s one example of a strategy for plants to be grown through the winter.

Direct sow or transplant into garden bed during late summer.

Leave in garden with row covers during light frosts.

Add poly hoops for heavier frosts.

Move to cold frame or greenhouse to withstand frigid winter temps.

Late summer and early fall are great times to decide how to protect your plants and gather, purchase, or build whatever you need.

Then when a frost is in the forecast, you’ll be ready to cover those plants and keep them alive and happy through the coming months.

See Part 2 for more info and resources.

Mulch root crops

Before heavy frosts arrive, cover mature root crops like carrots and radishes with a thick layer of mulch such as straw, deciduous leaves, or compost.

A layer of row cover cloth over the mulch adds a few more degrees of protection and may prevent mulch from blowing away in the wind.

This is also a good way to winter over perennial herbs and vegetables that will sprout in spring.

In many areas fall is the best time to plant garlic cloves for harvest the following summer.

Garlic likes some time to establish roots and rest for a few months before a growth spurt in the spring.

Build a high tunnel or greenhouse
Build a high tunnel or greenhouse

Mulch as for root crops to protect the garlic bulbs from frost damage and disruption from soil heaving during freeze/thaw cycles.

Lay out row cover

Use row cover to protect plants from frost, birds, and insects.

The fabric allows air, water, and light to penetrate.

Row cover may be laid over or under drip irrigation tubes.

Leave fabric slack to allow for plant growth.

Secure at edges and between plants with staples, U-pins, or weights such as rocks or pieces of lumber.

Set up poly hoops

Hoops may be put over row cover for extra insulation.

Secure hoops and poly covers as needed to withstand wind.

Leave ends of poly covering free to be opened on sunny days.

Plan for accessibility for harvest by opening one or both sides of cover.

Clothes pins or heavy clips can be used to attach poly covering to hoops.

Build a high tunnel or greenhouse

Many style and material options are available.

An Internet search for “build high tunnel” or “greenhouse plans” will result in lots of different ideas and schematics.

If locating a structure away from garden, make sure water is easily accessed for watering plants until heavy frosts hit.

A high tunnel or greenhouse normally used in summer may need to be winterized with additional material, doors, or window coverings.

Inside a high tunnel or greenhouse, plants may be grown directly in the ground or in containers.

For extra insulation over plants or around containers, row cover, poly hoops, and cold frames may be used inside high tunnels and greenhouses.

Fall frosts are just around the corner
Fall frosts are just around the corner

In Part 4 of Growing Fresh Veggies in Fall and Winter, we’ll tell you about our own plans and planting processes for our fall and winter garden.

Fall frosts are just around the corner

In some, they have already made an appearance.

Time to get those vegetable plants tucked in for the winter!  

If you’re just joining our discussion of fall and winter veggies, you might want to start with Growing Fresh Veggies in Fall and Winter Part 1.

Take a few minutes to read Part 2 and Part 3 while you’re at it.

Once you’ve figured out how to protect your plants from the cold, get your system in place.

The next steps depend on your own plans, but here are some ideas.

Put mulch over root vegetables.

Several inches of straw or leaves works great.

A layer of row cover or other porous sheeting over the mulch will prevent the material from blowing away while allowing sun and rain to warm and water the soil.

Place row cover over garden plants for defense against light frosts.

Lay it directly over the plants and anchor edges with pins, stones, or pieces of lumber.

Or support the row cover with hoops or another type of framework.

Clothespins, metal binder clips, and other types of clamps will keep the material secure but allow you to open the sides to harvest veggies.

Erect hoops or low tunnels over planted beds and cover with plastic or polyethylene for protection from harder frosts.

Again, clips and clamps are helpful for open-and-close weather protection and harvest access.

Transplant existing plants and seedlings from your garden bed to a cold frame or greenhouse.

This includes herbs and veggies left from summer planting as well as new salad greens started for fall and winter use.

Row cover drapes and hooped plastic can also extend the season for some tender plants that aren’t quite finished producing or ripening by fall.

earliest spring plantings
earliest spring plantings

This includes melons and squashes as well as peppers and tomatoes.

Don’t forget to protect your garden from possums and other pest.

Remember these tips

You can quickly build an inexpensive cold frame with four bales of straw and a glass window.

Most plants should be mature by the time heavy frosts arrive.

However, the magic mâche (also known as corn salad) will grow in cold weather as long as it has germinated and gotten a good start in warm soil.

There’s still time to start mâche seeds indoors and transplant them to a cold frame later.

Here’s an idea of what we’re trying out at our farm this fall.

We’re using our main raised bed, which has four sections divided by cross supports.

In two sections, plastic-covered hoops will be put over mature herb plants and some fresh starts of salad greens.

A third section of the raised bed, planted with carrots and radishes, will be mulched with straw and topped with row cover.

The last section of the raised bed contains a fall crop of green peas.

They’ll be covered with hooped row cover and then plastic until the harvest is over.

Then we’ll turn under the pea vines and that area will go fallow for winter, waiting for our earliest spring plantings next year.

Some potted plants will be kept in our new small greenhouse.

It’s unheated but has electricity if we choose to use it.

We’ll keep an eye on things and see how things go this first year.

We want some fresh veggies growing near the kitchen door for easy access, so we’ll use an old storm window and straw bales for a simple cold frame.

We’ll plant a few types of salad greens and herbs there, easy to grab without trudging through the snow.

Grow Your Own: Winter Lettuce and Micro-greens; 11Herbs for Indoor Container Growing; Fall crop schedule and other tips

Using Winter Downtime to Plan for Spring and Summer

The calm before the storm, life on a farm has a rhythm that flows with the seasons.

It’s no surprise that summer is the busiest time of the year.

Demands for tending fields, crops, gardens, and livestock are at their highest in the summer.

Springtime is a transition into that season, and in the fall, those chores begin to wane.

That’s not to say that winter isn’t busy, though.

During the shorter, darker, colder days, livestock that overwinter still need tending.

There is time to plan and repair machinery, clean out barns and sheds, and inventory equipment and supplies.

Of course some of us have other winter employment or year-round jobs that continue like clockwork.

But while summer is the most physically demanding season for a farm family, winter may well be the most taxing on the brain.

In winter, the mail carrier begins to deliver new catalogs and flyers from companies selling seed, equipment, and livestock.

The long evenings allow us to wade through stacks of magazines and books in search of new information and techniques as well as answers to troubling questions.

Plan for Spring and Summer
Plan for Spring and Summer

A Time for Everything

One of my favorite Bible passages is Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

I first began to contemplate its words as a young teenager when I found The Byrds’ rendition of “Turn, Turn, Turn” to be a very catchy song.

I just learned from Wikipedia that it was Pete Seeger who actually put the words to music.

So thanks to you too, Pete!

I can still sing a rendition of that song, and I still marvel at how they squeezed in all the syllables about refraining from embracing.

Since then I have read the verses in the Bible numerous times, always nodding my head at how relevant they are to many facets of my life.

But I think raising animals and plants is the most effective illustration of this concept in my life.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”

Using Winter Downtime to Plan for Spring and Summer

Yes, winter is, among other things, a time for planning.

Right now at our house we are deep in that planning phase.

We have the seed, poultry, and farm supply catalogs out.

Our favorite farming books are next to the recliner.

Our computers are humming as we search websites, read publications, and watch webinars.

We’ve attended a few seminars and workshops sponsored by our local extension office and agricultural center.

We are like sponges soaking up information, yet we also have to step away sometimes and clear our heads.

And for that, there’s nothing like a walk in the crisp cool air with beautiful vistas to enjoy.

For the past two years we have been developing our garden, orchard, and chicken systems.

This year we plan to expand on all of those and add pigs to the mix.

We need to consider our animals in the summer heat as well as in the cold.

We debate whether to start our beef cattle or wait one more year.

Where do we fit in the other infrastructure projects as we continue to develop our acreage?

In addition to what projects to work on, there are personal and ethical decisions to make.

What are our standards and preferences?

Will we focus on heritage livestock breeds and plants, or raise hybrids?

How can we avoid GMO (genetically modified organisms) in our seeds and livestock feeds?

Given our property and resources, what is the best way for us to raise various livestock species and plants?

Yes, it’s a busy time, but we know it’s kind of the calm before the storm.

We won’t be totally ready for it; we never seem to be.

But one thing is for certain:

We’re up for the challenge. Are you?

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days A Year No Matter Where You Live

Fresh salads from the garden in December?

Even in our four-season climate, where snow often covers the frozen soil all winter long?

Yes—it’s true—we can have our lettuce and eat it too!

We have never tried growing veggies all year round—but we are going to give it a go!

During the next two months we’ll be featuring some blog posts about fall and winter vegetable gardening.

To introduce the topic, here’s a review of an awesome book that we were glad to discover.

Author Niki Jabbour is a seasoned (no pun intended) gardener who not only raises food for her family but also loves to encourage others to do so.

She has written articles for numerous gardening magazines and currently hosts a radio show called “The Weekend Gardener.”

Click here to purchase your own copy of The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener
The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener By Niki JabbourThe Year-Round Vegetable Gardener<

As its title implies, this book is about gardening year-round, not just fall and winter gardening.

There is some great general info on gardening basics, including garden design, soil building, and succession planting.

Profiles of 43 different vegetables and 10 herbs

Provide growing and harvesting guidelines as well as Niki’s Picks—lists of the author’s favorite tried and true varieties.

A planting calendar for each plant indicates when to start seedlings indoors and sow directly outdoors, including multiple sowing times for successive and year-round crops.

Did you think your area had just one growing season?

“Stretching the Seasons” introduces us to the three growing seasons

Cool (spring and autumn), warm (summer) and cold (winter).

The author shares the keys to nonstop crops, among them soil amendments, cover crops, succession sowing, and interplanting.

We learn how changing day lengths and frost dates affect the growing seasons throughout the year.

In “Designing Productive Gardens,” the author explains how to select a site and plan out a garden that will span the seasons.

Both perpetual patches and crop rotations are discussed.

Several year-round garden designs are described and delightfully sketched (kudos to illustrator Elara Tanguy).

Throughout the book are sidebars and highlight pages featuring interesting gardeners and growing techniques.

Colorful photos, diagrams, and charts provide bright illustrations of the information and techniques featured in the text.

This book does double duty as a gardener’s reference manual and a coffee table book for dreaming and feasting with the eyes.

As you may have gathered, we were especially intrigued by the concept of raising fresh vegetables even under a blanket of snow.

The book’s cover indicates right off that this is a possibility.

The author is photographed bundled in a parka, kneeling in the snow at her cold frames with a harvest of very fresh goodness for her kitchen.

Niki Jabbour lives in Nova Scotia, so she knows true winters.

And she raises fresh vegetables all year long, so she knows it can be done.

What’s more, she guides us through the process so we too can eat garden salads in the midst of winter.

A chapter titled “Growing into Winter” suggests numerous micro-environments for growing fresh vegetables in fall and winter.

Mulches, row covers, hoops, cloches and hot caps will extend the harvest of summer crops into fall or winter.

Cold frames, heated greenhouses, and poly tunnels can protect plants even in the middle of winter, sometimes yielding fresh vegetables all the way into spring.

A combination of two or more of these will provide even more insulation from the frigid temps of winter.

Wondering what all those materials and structures are?

Just peruse the pages of this book and you’ll see descriptions, options, and construction details.

All accompanied by those wonderful photos and sketches.

Our detailed research for fall and winter gardening included some time spent in Part 2, “Growing the Right Crops.”

That’s where all those wonderful plant profiles are found.

A snowflake symbol indicates which veggies and herbs are good candidates for winter gardening.

Growing descriptions also detail those summer crops that can be extended into fall.

Our conclusion: The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener delivers what its title suggests, guiding the reader through a full year of growing, harvesting, and enjoying fresh veggies.

No Matter Where You Live, you’ll learn How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year.

A warning from author Niki:

“In this book, I’ll walk you through the process of creating a year-round vegetable garden.

But it’s only fair to warn you that the ability to harvest fresh, organic vegetables year-round from your own garden is potentially addictive.

It’s extremely satisfying, though, and easier than you might think. Interested?”

We sure are!

And we’re feeling ready to jump in.

How about you?

Click here to purchase your own copy of The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener

Homegrown Herbs: A Complete Guide to Growing, Using, and Enjoying More than 100 Herbs By Tammi Hartung

For many years we’ve grown veggies with only a few herb plants scattered in the garden.

Last year we made a point of planting several of our favorite herbs.

We really enjoyed having our own fresh and dried herbs available for cooking for much of the year.

So from now on, we’ll be planting more varieties and larger quantities of flavorful and fragrant herbs to enjoy fresh, frozen, dehydrated, and canned with other foods.

We discovered a treasure chest of information, not only on growing herbs but also about using them in the home and kitchen.

Homegrown Herbs: A Complete Guide to Growing, Using, and Enjoying More than 100 Herbs

First off we noticed that the book is not just about herbs.

With its general gardening info, Homegrown Herbs could actually serve as a basic gardening handbook.

Concepts and techniques such as plant selection, soil amendment, propagation, and control of pests and diseases are covered.

Specific culture of plenty of herbs is included.

All one would need is additional details on vegetables, flowers, and fruit.

Garden design suggestions are illustrated by sketches of herb gardens from a formal knot to a chef’s retreat to an apothecary garden.

Ideas for herb theme collections include culinary, children’s, tea, medicinal, and wildlife gardens.

But speaking of herbs…

We found lots of details about culture, harvest, seed saving, and processing of herbs.

Kitchen and household use includes some luscious-looking recipes for meals, snacks and beverages using both cultivated and wild herbs.

But that’s not all—there are recipes for pest control preparations, health and personal care products, and herbal vinegars.

A wonderful “personality” section covering the characteristics and need of 100 individual herbs goes beyond the basic parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.

Though the most common herbs are included, also featured are some herbs we’d never even heard of before.

Costmary, skullcap, and yerba mansa are all new to us!

Also included are some plants we’d never considered to be herbs: ginger, hops, and sunflowers for instance. Who knew?

For the experienced and the new gardener

Though we’ve been gardening for years, we learned some new concepts from the basic info in Homegrown Herbs.

What’s more, as relative newcomers to the joys of wild and garden herbs, we feel this guide is all we need in order to select, grow, and use all the herbs we enjoy and many we’ve never tried before.

Our Interview Jill Winger of “Your Custom Homestead”
Backyard Homestead with Carleen Madigan
Resources to Learn Homesteading Skills and Products

Path to Sustainability is Preserving Fresh Food

Heating food on large pot

Last Updated on

Path to Sustainability, These days many people rely highly on packaged mixes, precooked dishes, and ready-to-serve meals.

Some don’t know how to prepare anything much from scratch.

It’s really not their fault, since our culture has veered in the direction of fast food and easy meals.

Home economics classes are no longer required in many schools.

The majority of TV commercials for food are selling products wrapped in plastic and cardboard, not skin and peels.

Due to the economy and cost of living, grocery shopping is more likely to be Dad or Mom stopping on the way home from work than a family outing where kids see what fresh food looks like.

A basket of farm-fresh products, even honey from a local beekeeper, might baffle many people today.

But it’s not unlikely that we’ll all need to cook most of our meals from scratch at some point.

A key to sustainability when times get tough is the ability to prepare fresh foods and to preserve them for later use.

And it’s also an important element of a disaster survival kit

Path to Sustainability is Preserving Fresh Food
Path to Sustainability is Preserving Fresh Food

Path to Sustainability is Preserving Fresh Food

In this discussion, we’re using the word “fresh” as opposed to processed or precooked foods.

Some foods like grains, rice, and dried beans may not be fresh from the field when we buy them, but they have been stored in their natural form and have not been previously cooked.

We’re not discouraging the use of canned, frozen, or dehydrated ingredients.

In our kitchen we use both commercially and home-preserved foods regularly and include them in our food storage system.

We also use mixes and quick fixes.

But there may come a day when it’s crucial to know how to prepare foods that have not been previously processed.

We may even have to rely on foods that have been grown in our own communities.

Preparing fresh food from scratch

Some of us already prefer cooking from scratch, using fresh ingredients and doing most or all of the preparation at home.

But for others, this means learning some new skills and a return to cooking like Grandma did in years gone by.

If you’re in the latter camp and want to learn how to cook like Granny, have hope!

There are oodles of books, magazines, websites, blogs, local classes and workshops out there to help you get started.

Better yet, find a cooking granny or a friend who cooks from scratch and ask for some co-cooking sessions, tips, and recipes.

Cooking with a friend can be lots of fun, and it’s hard to avoid learning something new while you’re at it.

If you hesitate to go whole hog from the start, you can ease into it, using a combination of prepared and fresh ingredients.

Gradually you can move toward using more and more fresh food.

Preserving fresh food for later use

To many of us, there’s something very satisfying about putting up summer’s bounty for the rest of the year.

But it’s much more than just a pleasing activity.

Preserving food to last for several months or the entire year can save you money, frustration, and time.

And it may ultimately save you from doing without some of your favorite foods.

Who knows–“shopping” from your pantry instead of the grocery store may be a necessity at some point.

The most common means of food preservation for long-term storage are freezing, canning, and dehydrating.

Some people use only one method, while others combine two or more.

We think it makes sense not to “have all our eggs in one basket,” so we freeze, can, and dehydrate.

While freezing is the best way to store raw meat and our preferred method of preserving most veggies, in the event of a power outage or freezer breakdown, we’ll be glad not everything is frozen.

Libraries, bookstores, and the Internet are full of resources for learning to preserve food.

We suggest starting at the National Center for Home Food Preservation and becoming familiar with food safety issues and various processing methods.

We’ve shared more info on food preservation in a previous Rural Living Today post, Beating Food Challenges: Storing and Preserving Foods.

A list of food preservation resources is included in our new book, Getting Started on a Food Supply Plan, which is part of a Real Food Storage & Preparedness eBook Bundle (see below) this week.

Getting Started on a Food Supply Plan will also be available for purchase at Amazon and Smashwords.com.

Continuing year after year

In order to prepare and preserve food for a period of years, it’s wise to accumulate a good supply of equipment and a stash of supplies.

While most of us have basic cookware and utensils in our kitchens, it’s not a bad idea to have extras available.

And when it comes to food preservation, it seems one can never have too many canning jars and rings, which are reusable, as well as one-use lids and storage containers for frozen and dehydrated foods.

Please add your ideas for food preparation and preservation sustainability in the comments section.
sust highland cattle

Path to Sustainability Is It Really Important

As the patriarch of my family, I’ve continued to think about this and believe that sustainability is a word that essentially defines for us whether we are living within our means and abilities or living outside them.

If we are living within specific parameters, we will be able to continue to do what we are doing indefinitely.

If not, we will ultimately crash and burn.

And then we will need to start over.

There are a lot of ideas out there telling us this and that, and stressing that what we do must be sustainable.

While we may have thought of this as a new concept that will lead us to the promised land, perhaps it is just a new word for an old concept.

And that is to live, farm, and otherwise work with what you have.

Or maybe to not consume more than you have.

I think it is really that simple.

Consider what is not sustainable

Having an outgo that’s more than your income.

Debt is not sustainable on any scale, whether it is within our own family or on a global economic scale.

In fact, we are seeing the western global economic system crash before our eyes.

Governments need money for their banks, so they are stealing it from people’s savings and checking accounts.

Amazing.

Debt is not sustainable!

Running 20 head of cattle on one acre.

What would happen?

The cattle and the acre would just crash.

Cutting down the last of your trees for firewood and expecting there will be more for next winter.

Eating your seed corn and expecting a great crop in the garden next summer.

No seed, no crop…

Working 16-hour days with no days off.

Just not sustainable.

The Path to Sustainability Is It Really Important
The Path to Sustainability Is It Really Important

You all see where this is going.

Doing obviously dumb things for the wrong reason will end up in a crash.

These activities are not sustainable.

But we could adjust each of the five examples above so that the practice would be sustainable, right?

Recommended Sustainable Practices

Not buy anything I don’t have funds for.

I don’t buy that new tractor with zero down.

I buy what I can afford.

Certainly put animals only on land that can support them.

Nor cut down the last of my trees; cut only what the forest can stand to lose.

Grow, harvest, and eat, saving seed for the following year.

That is sustainable.

Work 16-hour days for a short period of time only, with some substantial breaks.

So is it important to me what the word sustainability means?

In my life probably not.

But the concepts it highlights will help guide me—and my family–as we continue to live and work on the land.

I don’t want to be held hostage by ideas and methods that no longer make any sense to me.

I am thinking that sustainable processes are SIMPLE ones.

I am thinking that sustainable processes are rooted in COMMON SENSE.

And I am now nearing the conclusion that sustainable processes help me get the very best bang for my HOUR (and buck) as well.

That in itself is very important to me, as I can be very lazy at times…looking for the easy way out.

To conclude, let me highlight my research journey into raising cattle.

This is something my son and I are looking into right now.

It is active project and on my plate.

If you’ve read this far, please keep following me on this.

Raising cattle: the old way

Common wisdom has been that if I want to run cows, I need to revamp my existing pasture that hasn’t been used for decades.

I should kill what is on it, perhaps torch it, prepare a new seed bed, plant seed and let it sit fallow for a couple of years as the roots develop.

Oh my. And that is just a start.

Then, I should set up a haymaking operation.

Cool.

Tractor trucks to move the hay.

New barn for the hay.

Grass cutter and then the whole works to fluff the grass, rake it, and get it ready for the bailer!!

Then I will need to fertilize the entire acreage each year as I am baling, thus removing the nutrients from the pasture.

What an investment!

And then comes the operation.

Put cows on half of the pasture and make hay on the rest.

Cut the grass, rake the grass, put the grass in rows, bale the grass.

Move the grass to a central location.

Store the grass in the barn.

The pasture I mowed really won’t work for cows now, so I had to move them to a central location.

Each day, I need to pull down one of the 80# bales of hay, open it, and spread it for the cows to eat.

Their manure is now a problem, as it is all in one spot.

Another issue to consider.

After hearing about this process by talking to different folks, I almost just gave up.

I didn’t have the funds or energy, and it seemed so inefficient.

It really was not sustainable.

No money to be made, as the system ate it all up.

That is why so many people give up raising cattle this way.

sustainable hay field - rotational grazing
sustainable hay field – rotational grazing

A better way…a sustainable way

BUT THEN I learned about another way: rotational grazing.

This is a very different process for achieving the results I wanted.

I won’t go into detail here, but my “textbook”

What I found was that the simple, sustainable, and profitable way to raise cattle was to let the cattle do all the work instead of me!

Now why didn’t I think of that?

But does this really work?

What do the people who already do this say about it?

As I continued in my journey, I saw that many have been doing this very successfully–and it IS sustainable, with only minimal input.

Consider the difference of a sustainable practice compared to one that really isn’t as detailed above.

Here’s how it goes:

My existing pasture is left as it is.

The cows are started on it and rotated once a day to a specific paddock.

They eat most of the forage and after they’re moved they won’t touch it again until they are rotated once more to it.

The grass grows much better, and the manure stays in place.

Instead of cutting grass for all my hay, I stockpile hay by letting it grow higher.

When late fall arrives, the cattle are put there to graze, even if there is an early snow.

They will have all that they want or need.

There is no hay operation.

The grass is left for the cattle to eat, in place.

The cows spread their manure throughout the pasture.

They—not I–do all this work.

I will feed hay to them from the middle of winter till early spring.

I will buy local hay, and the nutrients in that will replace any chemical fertilizer I would normally have bought.

My efforts during the summer consist of moving the cattle from one paddock to the next each day–maybe 30 minutes.

The result of living sustainably?

Using this rotational grazing method, there’s a profit at the end of the road.

A profit is made without equipment, with no fertilizer.

Just healthy grass and the cattle doing their thing and improving the pasture each year.

Some say that using this method allows you to double the carrying capacity of the pasture.

Now that is only a quick example, and not intended to be an education on cattle.

But I wanted to contrast the difference between a sustainable operation and an unsustainable one.

This type of system could work for any operation you are considering.

I will bet you will find ways to do things outside of the mainstream box that will make your projects very sustainable.

So, is sustainability important.?

Yes it is.

It leads us to simplicity.

It leads us to common sense.

And in the process, our time and our wallets become much more sustainable as well.

The Path to Sustainability: What Does It Mean to You?

Path to Sustainability: Have you ever noticed how words in the English language get hijacked and take on new lives with different definitions?

It’s like the game of Gossip or Telephone where a whispered message goes around a large circle of people and ends up way off from how it originated.

Passing time has the same effect, gradually altering the use of words and even their meaning.

Think back to your childhood.

Weren’t there a few words that had different meanings then?

Radical once meant ‘really out there’ rather than ‘amazing.’

Money used to be green bills and coins; now it can mean something is really awesome.

And don’t get me started about innocently-used words that draw giggles and looks of shock from the younger crowd.

Many a plain old word of my youth has now taken on a new connotation.

I can’t even play a game of Scrabble without using a word that means something entirely different to my kids in their 20s.

broody April

Defining sustainability

Here in our world of homesteading and self-sufficient living, we’ve seen a few words fall victim to the buzzword syndrome.

Some examples are organic and natural.

Those words can’t be taken at face value anymore.

Another hijacked word is sustainable.

We sometimes see it used very loosely to describe ways of saving money, time, or energy.

Even using prepackaged ingredients and other items purchased at stores.

While we do buy manufactured and prepared products, we don’t consider using them to be sustainable.

A big question is: if shipping, processing, or manufacturing suddenly stopped, would we be able to provide for ourselves?

Several years ago our family established a goal of becoming more self-sufficient and living a more sustainable lifestyle.

Our plans were based on the old standard definition of sustainability.

public domain the farm girl

Sustainability, RLT style

In the box above, we’ve boldfaced some words that exemplify the heart of sustainability in our minds.

To us, sustainable living involves developing systems that can be upheld…kept going…maintained…supported…and continued year after year.

Systems that endure.

We could add these words to our description:

perpetual…cycling…reproducing…refreshing…reinvigorating…restoring.

Key concepts of sustainability

Some involve being wise stewards of the earth and its natural resources.

Others focus on the health, care, and feeding of our human bodies and those of our pets and livestock.

Raising plants and animals, procuring fresh locally-produced food, preserving it for long-term storage, and cooking with nutrition in mind are all part of the equation.

Then there are the sensible use of fossil fuels and non-renewable resources–and for many people, the downsizing of dependency or weaning from heavy use.

A gift that keeps on giving

As an extended family, our personal sustainability goal is to create a lifestyle of systems that would allow us to thrive year after year without relying on outside sources that may become unavailable or unreachable due to financial or logistical restraints.

So now you know what we mean at Rural Living Today when we talk about sustainability.

And we’ll be talking about it a bit more in future posts.

A few things we’re working on at our farm:

not just using purchased products, but replacing some with reusables and homemade

not just growing veggies, but saving seeds and making compost

not just raising livestock, but reproducing some and having sources for others

not just owning equipment and machinery, but being able to repair it

Because ultimately, we would like to be able to live our life without depending on any source beyond walking distance for

groceries, household supplies

garden seeds, planting supplies, soil amendments

replacement livestock, livestock feed

That doesn’t mean we won’t purchase these things when they’re readily available and affordable.

Today that may be the best use of our time and money.

Right now we’re still building up our sustainability level, and we still do need to rely on outside sources.

And frankly, there are a few manufactured products–toilet paper comes to mind–that will be the last outside conveniences we give up.

Always a work in progress

The fact is, we’re not yet where we ultimately want to end up on the sustainability scale.

But if the world came crashing down on us tomorrow–if transportation of goods ceased, or prices became exorbitant, or we were suddenly unable to procure goods and services for any reason–we would be able to move forward.

We couldn’t have said that five years ago, but since then we’ve been steadily developing and fortifying our lifestyle of sustainability.

Some time ago we borrowed a mantra from an episode of the TV show “Doomsday Preppers.”

While most of the households featured on that show do not have full-scope long-term sustainability covered, a few do.

One man at an operating farm said something like this:

“If the world falls apart, I’ll just go out in the morning and feed my chickens like I always do.”

Come what may, life will go on.

Sustainable.

Need some inspiration as you find your own definition?

Check out The Lexicon of Sustainability and see what others have to say!

It’s a cool interactive resource, and you can add your own definitions for all sorts of terms related to sustainability.

The Path to Sustainability: Building Community

Have you been thinking that now is a good time to increase the sustainability of your lifestyle?

It’s time for all of us to become more self-sufficient and 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.

In previous posts we’ve talked about the meaning of sustainability and why sustainability is important.

And recently, some of us have noticed some empty store shelves, had to wait for stores to resupply, or cringed at the price of products we used to buy without blinking an eye.

Others are just reading the writing on the wall.

Our family is moving forward in preparing ourselves to be less dependent on outside sources.

We’re working toward a more sustainable life.

What does that mean?

We’re building community.

We’re learning to raise our own food, do our own repairs, make more things from scratch.

We’re stocking up on some things we’d like to have if they later become unavailable.

We’re evaluating our options for nearby sources of other items and services.

Building community

We have written before about how important community is to us.

Community is key to our rural living experience.

What is community?

We see it as a group of people with something in common, whether it’s location, purpose, or ethics.

In a sustainable living situation, ideally a community will share goals and values that involve working–sometimes pretty hard–to develop self-sufficiency, decrease dependence on outside sources, and build a system that will perpetuate and reproduce year after year.

In our case, our sustainability community includes our extended family of 20-some adults and children, some close neighbors, and some friends living within 20 miles of us.

It includes faraway friends we’ve never met in person, available for encouragement as long as the Internet still functions!

community people

We have no formal structure defining us as a community, but we act as one.

We collaborate and brainstorm and help each other out.

If times got tough, we would share skills and resources.

Obviously, parts of this community could become unreachable at some point.

Without the Internet or computer power, we wouldn’t be able to connect with people who live far away.

Travel challenges like fuel shortages might prevent us from working side by side with people just 20 miles away.

But for now, we are able to support each other in our quest for sustainability.

Our goal for our community:

Everyone should know something about everything.

Everyone should know everything about something.

That way, everyone can step in to help with any situation, and everyone can take the lead in one or more areas.

Our community members contribute an interesting and very useful variety of expertise.

We have most everything covered except engine mechanics.

Some of us will be learning more about that and hopefully someone will learn all about it.

community sheep

From nearby neighbors to faraway kindred spirits, who’s in your community?

Household, Farm, and Personal Items

The one-year plan to The Path to Sustainability, we suggest that you do some brainstorming using a one-year plan.

This will make a potentially overwhelming project much less daunting.

As you go through the coming season, make note of everything that you consider necessary or very beneficial.

This includes foods (especially those you can’t easily raise), household goods, fuel, spare parts, etc.

Find a way to keep your lists in a composition book, binder, file system, or computer spreadsheet.

When you buy something, think about possible natural or DIY substitutes.

What if you couldn’t buy this product?

Look into other solutions.

What basic supplies are needed for DIY laundry detergent and household soaps?

Could you make a wasp trap?

How about wool dryer balls for softening laundry?

Make an attempt to collect as many of those crucial products and supplies as you can for future use.

For some long-lasting things this means one or two, and for others like consumables, it’s good to build up a supply.

Repeat this throughout the year.

The end of each season is usually a good time to find items on sale in retail stores or used in classified ads.

By the end of a year, you will be much further ahead in your planning and will make some progress in your preparations.

Most likely you won’t be able to collect everything you need in one year.

But if you consider it an ongoing project that will take some time, each item you add to your stash and supply will represent a step in the right direction.

Please add your ideas for household, farm, and personal sustainability in the comments section.

The Path to Sustainability: Raising Livestock

The Path to Sustainability: Gardens and Orchards

Supporting a Sustainable Lifestyle Through Couponing

Whether you are beginning a homesteading lifestyle or have been practicing it for decades, there may be financial advantages through couponing that you are missing out on.

While sustainable living is based on the concept of growing and making your own food and goods, there will still be times where it is necessary to purchase essentials from a supermarket or hardware store.

In these cases, there are ways to help save on cost or ways to make extra money when funds are tight.

Sustainable living can be quite cost effective for families and with the additional help of coupons available, the cost of living can be even lower.

Improved Lifestyle through Couponing

As a homesteader, it is always best to plan and prepare food storage so you will be ready to face a disaster.

If there is no water, gas or food available through the usual means, what items will you have to back you up in the time of crisis?

With just a bit of thinking ahead you can avoid problems later.

Of course, one needs to build up a budget for stockpiling food and survival stores.

While it’s not expensive, the larger the family, the larger the cost will be to build up sufficient stores.

Don’t let cost be a deterrent when beginning to stock up on supplies.

When calamity strikes, the last thing you will care about is how much the materials cost.

Start by keeping a lookout for items you can purchase with the assistance of coupons.

Coupons for bulk items

Coupons can be especially helpful for buying bulk storage foods such as corn, pasta, dried milk, honey and oats.

These items are regularly couponed at most major supermarkets.

Look for foods that have a high fat content and can be stored for long periods of time.

Foods like these are essential for supplying calories needed to sustain life when food is scarce.

It is essential to build up food stores that can be preserved for a long time.

Think canned foods or freeze dried foods that have long expiration dates.

Even though you are making a one-time purchase for your food stores, the savings on these items can add up, especially for larger families.

Coupons for non-perishables

Also look for coupons for other non-perishables such as yeast, soda, baking powder and vinegar.

Many of these common household items are regularly discounted through coupons and can be stored for up to 25 years.

Savings on these items could equate to large sums of money over time.

Another great reason to think ahead and buy bulk items in advance with coupons is because they are the first thing to go from stores in cases of emergency.

In addition, consider stocking spare tools that you will need to cook the food.

Can openers, pots, pans, and utensils will all be helpful if your original tool is lost for any reason.

Better to be over-prepared, especially when you can efficiently buy spares with the help of coupons.

Using coupons to build a surplus

It is also important to think about creating stores of supplies for any livestock operations that you may be running as well.

If you are raising any type of farm animals, ask yourself what tools you use regularly to help take care of the animals.

Any feed supply, even for the short term, can make the difference when sustaining life.

Consider also using coupons to purchase additional spare parts for generators or filtration systems.

It’s not only supermarkets that issue coupons, though that may be the most popular place to use them.

Hardware stores also regularly print coupons.

You can use them to stock up on materials you may not think of when you are creating an emergency supply.

Duct tape, rope, additional sizes of nuts and bolts can all come in handy even when you least expect it.

At the end of the day, it is important to plan and prepare for the worst situations.

Think of those materials that you will need most to sustain life in a disastrous situation.

Start by watching for coupons for those items, mostly food and water.

From there, consider cleaning and preserving substances.

Think of things you can safely preserve and store for long periods.

Who uses coupons?

If you are not enthusiastic about couponing and question how much it will save you, consider these facts.

In 2013, each person was offered an average of $1,617 in coupons.

Still, non-coupon users are in the majority.

While $516 billion worth of coupons are offered each year, $512 billion of those savings go un-redeemed.

Statistics show that those who do use coupons are having the last laugh.

42% of those who utilize coupons save $30 each week and 21% save more than $50 each week.

A big misconception about coupons is that they are for the poor.

Most people report not using coupons because they don’t want people to think they are cheap or poor.

However, the 1% of the population that uses coupons are those who are wealthier and better educated, uprooting those stereotypes.

Easy ways to use coupons

Another common excuse for not using coupons is that it can be time-consuming to hunt for deals.

There are ways to make it easy.

Not only are there an ever-growing number of mobile couponing apps, there are other apps that will comb through your inbox and make sure you’re automatically taking advantage of any cashback or price drop deals.

At the end of the day, homesteading is a rewarding lifestyle that takes advanced preparation and planning.

While it will help you save costs in some areas of life, there are additional means to be able to cut down on the costs of materials that allow you to sustain a homesteading lifestyle.

The vast majority of the population does not utilize coupons.

The average family could be saving thousands of dollars a year with couponing.

Luckily for homesteaders, most of the materials we need are available to purchase with coupons.

This is extra convenient for those who may be beginning to build food and supply stores for disastrous situations.

When looking to build a sustainable lifestyle, couponing is key.

Building these stores can be costly but with the help of coupons, a percentage of the cost can be reduced.

For more information on the savings that can be earned through couponing, check out this infographic that breaks down the average savings lost per person.

Via: InvestmentZen.com

Reduce Your Burn Rate
Financial Aid
Making Ends Meet

Path to Sustainability is Gardens and Orchards to Supply Food

Fresh Garden Cherries

Last Updated on

Path to Sustainability is Gardens and Orchards – We’ve been talking about various steps along the path to sustainability.

That is, practices that will carry us over from year to year, even if our outside resources fail us.

Like sustainable production of livestock, ongoing success growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs depends on a few specific factors.

We can keep gardens and orchards going year after year without outside resources by establishing perennial plants, saving seeds for annuals, providing us a wellness sanctuary and providing an ongoing supply of good soil amendments.

On our farm we’ve started using all of these methods and we’re learning more and more about them each year.

We’re still buying trees, plants, and seeds, but we feel that we have a good start on being sustainable with our gardens and orchard.

Path to Sustainability is Gardens and Orchards

Most orchard trees and bushes are perennials — plants that live for years without reseeding or replanting.

There are also a number of perennial garden vegetable plants that will keep on producing for many years.

Some require nothing more than mulching, while others depend on pruning for healthy growth year after year.

Fruit and nut trees

Can be planted as saplings of varying sizes.

The larger the sapling, the faster the tree will become established and the sooner it will bear a substantial amount of fruit.

There are some tricks to planting fruit trees, including attention to planting season, protection from animal browse, and watering.

Pruning from year to year is also important.

Berry bushes and grape vines

Are perennial, and usually produce sooner after planting than fruit and nut trees.

Most bramble bushes and grape vines grow best with support, ample water during establishment, and some pruning.

An excellent source of information on growing fruits, nuts, berries, and grapes is The Fruit Gardener’s Bible by Lewis Hill.

Also see Planting and Caring for Fruit Trees at Sunset Magazine and Growing Berries in Your Backyard at Mother Earth News.

Garden perennials

Including asparagus, rhubarb, lovage, and Jerusalem artichokes will also produce for many years.

A number of herbs including sage and rosemary are perennials in some or all climates.

Most perennial vegetables and herbs are planted once and just maintained, while others such as asparagus need some special attention for the first few years.

Some perennial vegetables with spreading root systems–like rhubarb–can be propagated by root division, while other plants including some perennial herbs adapt well to rooting of stem cuttings.

This way you can increase the number of plants for yourself or to share, and replace weak plants with more vigorous young plants.

Generally, plants that yield in spring and summer are best divided in fall so the root systems will be well established by spring.

Allium (garlic, chives) heads may be divided in fall; each planted clove has the potential to grow a new plant the following summer.

A super introduction is a Perennial Vegetables: Grow More Food With Less Work at Mother Earth News.

Author Eric Toensmeier has included 100 perennial vegetables in his book Perennial Vegetables.

Tools of the trade

Part of preparing for sustainable food production is amassing all the tools and equipment you might need.

This can range from small hand garden tools (great pruning shears review) to larger pieces of equipment to tractors and other vehicles, fuel to operate them, and the means to repair them.

One way to get a good idea of what you’ll need is to take notes for an entire year:

what you use, how you use it, how to keep it in good repair.

Then gradually add to your collection of tools and equipment.

Saving seeds for annuals

Most vegetables must be planted each year, and that requires viable seeds.

Today, vegetable seeds may be purchased in many local retail establishments from grocery stores to big box stores to garden shops and nurseries.

There are also many online sources of garden seeds.

One day, it may not be so easy to find seeds.

And frankly, many of us would like to cut the cost of seeds now anyway.

Saving seeds from garden production is fairly simple and yields good results with a supply of seeds for the following year…at no cost!

There are a few tricks to saving seeds, and some basic understanding of plant varieties is helpful.

First of all, there are several ways to collect seeds, depending on the type of plant.

Secondly, common hybrid plants yield seeds that are not reliable for consistent reproduction, so it’s important to save seeds from heirloom plants.

Collecting seeds

Can be as simple as pulling seeds off a mature plant or a bit more complicated, like removing seeds from a pepper or bean pod.

Some seeds are ready for saving right off the plant, while others, such as tomato seeds, must be soaked or otherwise treated.

Learn more at Saving Seed from the Garden and Seed Saving Tips.

Hybrid vs. heirloom

Do you know the difference? Hybrid plants are developed for increased stamina, production, or eye appeal.

However, their seeds do not produce consistently, and a gardener could end up with weak or fruitless plants, odd produce, and other unexpected results.

Heirloom plants reproduce plants and fruits like the parent plant; in other words, you know what you’ll get at harvest time.

Open pollinated?

Books and online resources have caused confusion over the definition of the term “open pollination.”

Some sources consider heirloom seeds equivalent to open pollinated seeds.

Others define open pollination as natural pollination by insects, wind, etc. as opposed to self-pollination of plants.

In any case, if you plan to save seeds, it’s important to avoid cross-pollination of heirloom plants by planting different varieties far enough apart.

Seeds can be collected from regular garden rows or patches or from a specified seed saving bed

Designating an area just for saving seeds may make it easier to reserve seeds from each plant and also allow for full maturity of those plants that go to seed late in the season.

Just plant one or two of each vegetable in the seed saving bed and make sure no one harvests the produce for the kitchen.

Another type of “seed”

Is actually the fruit of a plant.

You can save small potatoes to plant next year and garlic cloves to plant in the fall.

Store in a cool, dry location.

Sprouting during storage does not necessarily render them useless; sprouting potatoes and garlic can still be planted.

Storing seeds

Properly is also important.

Seeds should be stored in dry containers in a cool, dry location.

Too much moisture, heat or freezing can damage or kill some seeds.

A warm, moist environment can invite premature germination during the fall or winter, and the sprouts will die before planting time.

That means less seed for the gardening season.

Read more about seed saving at Seed Savers and at Mother Earth News.

Starting seeds

Can be as simple as pressing beans into the soil and waiting.

Or a little more time-consuming, like planting tomato seeds indoors and nurturing small seedlings till they’re ready to go out to the garden.

Just for fun, to save money, or to provide for yourself when you can’t find seedlings to buy, you can be prepared to raise your own seedlings with an assortment of seed starting containers, heat mats, lights, grow racks, and perhaps even a cold frame or greenhouse.

Providing soil amendments

We have three words to say about this: compost, compost, compost!

One of the basic ways to create a rich soil amendment is to compost waste products from the kitchen and yard.

Added to the garden from year to year, compost will improve the texture of your garden soil while contributing food for your plants.

Large quantities of compost can be spread over the entire garden bed; if your supply is smaller, compost can be added directly to planting holes.

Compost tea is simple to make and a great way to spot-feed individual plants.

We encourage everyone to learn how to compost and use as much of their household, garden, backyard, and barnyard waste as they can.

While simply piling materials will yield some sort of compost, it’s far better to mix materials for a balance of carbon and nitrogen inputs.

This is a science, but it can be simplified.

Canine, feline, and human feces and urine should not be used in a compost pile intended for food production use.

Aside from compost, there are other efficient ways to provide nutrients to your garden and orchard.

If your soil is lacking specific nutrients

There are ways to add them, too.

A simple soil analysis will tell you about the composition of your soil.

Then you can supplement your compost with specific materials such as egg shells for calcium or banana peels for potassium.

Find some ideas at Ten Natural Fertilizer Recipes from Home Grown Fun.

Livestock manure

Valuable additive to the garden.

If you have access to large amounts of livestock manure from your own place or a neighbor, this can add bulk and nutrients to the compost you create from your own home and yard waste.

Another form, DIY manure tea, is valuable for individual plant feeding.

Green manures

Can also be planted to improve garden soil during fallow months.

While often used in large agricultural fields, green manure crops are also very effective in small home garden plots.

Ask your local extension or agriculture agent about the preferred green manure plants for your area.

Mulching

With deciduous leaves, evergreen needles, straw, and other materials helps plants and trees throughout the year.

Mulches help retain moisture and proper temperature while adding nutrients to the soil as they decompose.

Be aware that some materials such as evergreen needles may contribute too much acid or other element for certain plants.

And don’t forget that most vegetable garden plants and orchard trees need water

If you’re in a climate with dry phases and are on a public water system or rely on electricity to run a well pump, consider a rain catchment system or another source of water for your garden and orchard.

Food for other senses

Vegetable gardens and orchards provide a feast for the taste buds.

But don’t forget about enjoyment for the eyes and noses as well!

All of the concepts mentioned above are also effective with flower gardens and landscaped areas.

In closing, just a warning: Raising your own food can become addictive!

Enjoy the path to sustainable food production!

Please add your ideas for garden and orchard sustainability in the comments section.

Obviously some critter that shall remain nameless has pulled up the base of the bin, causing an orange to roll down from the top of the pile.

The problem of Building a Compost Pile

We’ve had a compost problem…but we’ve found a compost solution.

Our compost pile was started two years ago in a location that has now become the middle of a through-way in our garden area.

Our two wonderful dogs, our chickens, and the local magpies can’t seem to resist the buffet.

You’ll see why we want a better setup when you look at this picture of our scrappy patchy system that temporarily protects the pile from dogs that dig at ground level and birds that land right on the pile.

The solution Building a Compost Pile

We decided to move the compost pile, fence it in with wood pallets, and cover it with a screened lid.

Compost For Sale

Just when we were getting our plans in gear, we started reading about Compost-Along.

We decided to join the party, exchange experiences with other composters, and learn some new composting tips along the way.

One of the culprits caught in the act, trying to figure out how to get in that bin.

Our existing compost system

A few years ago I attended a local compost fair and received two of the cool rigid plastic compost bins seen in the photos above.

They’re tall, adjustable, and well-ventilated.

Normally they even stand up straight.

I have composted in these bins for two years now.

We put in all our kitchen and garden food waste that the chickens don’t get, including coffee grounds/filters, paper scraps, onions, citrus, and raw potato peelings.

Once in a while we rake up stalks, rinds, and other leftovers from the chicken pen.

We’ve added garden weeds that have not gone to seed, as well as various leaves and other vegetation we have.

We planted red worms in the pile to speed up decomposition.

Earthworms can also enter the pile from the dirt floor.

We avoid putting meat or animal manure in this pile, as we want it to create compost safe for all our food crops.

We’ve never been sure how hot our pile gets and how many microorganisms might remain in the compost.

So we either put the chicken coop litter directly on the garden in the fall or compost it in a different pile.

Building a Compost Pile
We pulled this straw off the garlic this spring, so it can be composted now.

Composting along

Our Compost-Along project will be our kitchen/garden scrap compost pile.

We got busy planting our garden and thoughts of composting were set aside for a time…so today we’ll cover weeks 1 and 2.

Decide on a type of compost bin.

Decide how to get compost ingredients.

For extra credit, get a bin and start collecting compost materials.

We’ll use our plastic bins enclosed by wood pallets, with potential to have two piles going at the same time.

We’ll continue to use our kitchen and garden scraps, and will collect more ingredients like leaves, sawdust, wood ashes, straw, and grass clippings around the farm.

We also got some new ideas from the LHITS compost ingredients list: dryer lint and dog hair!

At times we have an abundance of both around here.

Extra credit: We already have the bin and some materials to compost.

This wood ash will be great in the compost pile.

Week 2 Composting

Get or make a bin.

Collect compost materials.

For extra credit, gather up some natural compost activators, like alfalfa meal, blood or bone meal, cottonseed meal, fish emulsion, comfrey, stale dog food, seaweed, and urine.

Composting results

We have an empty bin, though we haven’t yet made the wood pallet frame.

We have a few buckets containing kitchen scraps, yard clippings, wood ashes, dryer lint, and dog hair.

Ready to roll when we hear “Ready, Set, Go!”

I learned something new this week too: I didn’t know about all those compost activators!

I’ll plant some comfrey this year and collect any dog food that might go stale.

Extra credit: We have fish emulsion, which we use as a garden fertilizer.

Should we just pour some in the compost pile?

No-till Gardening: Your Complete Guide to An Easier Way to Grow

Fall and Winter Vegetable Gardens How to
Requests From Our Readers: Creating Root Cellars
The Path to Sustainability: Raising Livestock
The Path to Sustainability: Preparing and Preserving Fresh Foods

Path to Sustainability is Raising Livestock

Some Cattle on farm

Last Updated on

Path to Sustainability is Raising Livestock – When it comes to living a more sustainable lifestyle, raising our own food plays a key role.

Dependence on grocery stores just won’t do!

We’ve been disappointed in the quality, freshness, and availability of many commercial food products anyway.

Even though we are big supporters of other local producers and farmers, we don’t want to totally rely on them, either.

Besides, we happen to enjoy gardening and raising livestock.

Both add a lot to our lives and contribute to our physical and mental health!

So as our family moves towards more sustainability, we’ve implemented some food production projects and have plans for others.

Here’s an idea of what’s happening on our farm and in our plans.

The Path to Sustainability is Raising Livestock

In the past few years, we’ve bought feeder pigs and calves from local breeders.

We’ve ordered several batches of chicks from hatcheries and bought a few more from our feed store.

This works as long as transportation and supply are not an issue.

But to us, it’s not totally sustainable.

We’ve heard talk of potential changes in interstate shipping of live animals. What if hatcheries were not able to ship baby chicks?

For the past two years, there’s actually been a shortage of weaner pigs even in our rural area.

What if we couldn’t find any to buy?

Livestock sustainability from year to year depends on access to breeding stock and feed.

Reproducing from year to year

We already keep roosters; we have broody hens and electric incubators.

We’ve bred, hatched, and raised our own baby chicks and have been evaluating the best breeds for long term sustainability.

So we could become independent when it comes to chickens for both meat and eggs.

But we also like to eat beef and pork.

For now, we could get calves from a neighbor and walk them back to our farm.

If need be, we could buy or barter for beef right down the road.

No nearby source for piglets…get some breeding stock ourselves?

It’s easy to keep breeding stock of poultry and rabbits, but bulls and boars on a farm present more management challenges.

We might only need females if there’s a stud in the neighborhood and we can arrange visits.

It’s something to think about.

Guide To Raising Rabbits for Meat

sust grain

Availability of feed

Without grain and other feed rations, many of us could raise our livestock on forage for part of the year.

But what about the small homestead with little of nutritional value to be found?

And how about the dry brown months some climates present?

Stockpiling hay, grains, and garden products during the growing season is one solution.

Raising redworms, mealworms, or fish for feed is another option.

Kitchen scraps and even “people food” prepared especially for stock can be helpful.

We like to raise our livestock on forage and give supplemental grain rations to our poultry and feeder pigs.

That gives us a few things to consider.

How many animals can our pasture support?

Which animals could forage in the forest?

Where can we get grain and protein sources locally?

Which ones can we grow?

Do we need harvesting equipment, or is a neighbor available to hire for harvest?

We have an electric feed grinder.

Do we have generator or solar power to operate it if the grid is down?

Do we have a hand-operated mill or another way to break down the grains and legumes?

We’ve gotten a start on feed sustainability by sourcing local and regional feed ingredients for our homemade chicken and pig feed and learning how to proportion, mix, and grind.

But we’re always on the lookout for more sources!

Livestock processing

Harvesting eggs is as simple as collecting eggs daily from nest boxes and taking a look around for hidden nests.

Processing livestock for meat is another story–a bit more complicated, time consuming, and messy.

Do we know how to process all the livestock we raise?

Do we have the right equipment?

Our family has butchered small numbers of chickens and turkeys by hand.

We use a local mobile processing unit for larger batches, and a few local poultry producers will process our birds for a fee.

But if outside facilities were not available, we are prepared to do it by hand.

Here are some tips on poultry processing.

We currently have our large animals slaughtered and processed by professionals, but hunters in our family and neighborhood know how to butcher, cut, and wrap large animals by hand.

We need to evaluate our equipment and make sure we have everything we need.

Equipment for livestock processing includes electric and non-electric heating sources (propane stoves, campfires), pots, good quality knives, vacuum sealer, and other tools.

Consider how your processing will be affected if you have no access to electricity.

A good stash of wrapping and storage materials includes butcher/freezer paper, plastic wrap, bags for vacuum sealer bags, and shrink bags (all BPA-free if possible).

Meat storage

While we have previously relied on freezers for storing meat, we are moving toward a multi-process system.

In the event that our freezers failed or power was not available, we don’t want all our meat to be in the freezers.

In addition to freezing, most meats can be processed by dehydrating (jerky, pemmican, etc.), and pressure canning.

Water bath canning is NOT safe for meats, broth, or combinations including meat or meat broth.

We encourage you to have a good understanding of food safety before processing meats for storage.

Also, solar drying of meats is safe in all climates.

If you are not sure about your area, consult your local cooperative extension office in the U.S. or department of agriculture in other countries.

Equipment for meat storage includes electric and non-electric heating sources (propane stoves, campfires), a good pressure canner, dehydrator (small tower style or larger cabinet style), multiple water pots, good quality knives, meat grinder, meat slicer, vacuum sealer, and other tools such as canning equipment.

Consider how your processing will be affected if you have no access to electricity.

Add a supply of canning jars/rings/lids, BPA-free plastic bags/vacuum sealer bags, and empty commercial jars (for dehydrated food only–do not use for canning).

Canning jars may be reused as long as they are free of cracks, and rings may be used over and over again.

Regular canning lids should NOT be reused in the canning process.

BPA-free plastic Tattler lids can be used multiple times.

Check all lids for sealing failures, and re-process or freeze those that don’t seal.

It’s a good feeling to have our protein production underway.

Path to Sustainability is Raising Livestock Next…we’ll move on to the garden and orchard for our sides and snacks!

Path to Sustainability Series:

Everything you need to Know about Pygmy Goats
Horse Grooming and DIY Farrier
The Path to Sustainability: Gardens and Orchards
The Path to Sustainability: Preparing and Preserving Fresh Foods

Affordable Living Off the Grid Guide How to Live Cheap

Beautiful view of mountain trees

Last Updated on

Affordable Living Off the Grid – Our last post, The Challenge: Affordably Living Off of the Grid, got so much response that I decided to tell a little more about our backstory.

This is a detailed post with lots of experience and lessons we learned about moving from a fast-paced lifestyle to a remote location.

I want to share our “get to the country” plan and how things changed and developed along the way.

Affordable Living Off the Grid – The Beginning

The story really does go back as far as childhood for both my husband and myself.

We both have always loved being out in the mountains, and have been interested in back-to-basics.

To put it into perspective, when I was just a teen, when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my response was not that I wanted to be a nurse or a teacher or firefighter.

My response was “I want to be a hermit in the mountains and live off the land.” Off-Grid Living: Surviving the Outdoors

As years went on, life took over and I began to forget about my dreams of living in the mountains.

I got caught up with the hustle and bustle of life — or at least our culture’s concept of it — until one decisive moment.

Affordably Living Off Of The Grid
We brought in someone a few years back to do some initial clearing to get things started.

Time’s a Changin’

It was Christmas, and we just had our first daughter.

We were in one of those very difficult times that young parents go through.

We were dealing with unemployment, a major and traumatic split in our church, and the reveal that our pastor was somewhat of a con artist.

I was also feeling very unsettled with life in general. Parenthood had made me begin thinking about life in a much deeper sense than I had been before.

We had no direction, no goals, and it felt like we were just floating along in life.

At the time we were living in Colorado.

It’s where my husband is from and where we met.

However, I was feeling some very strong pulls to move to Washington where my family was.

In retrospect, I know that sort of thing happens often when young people become parents.

It was a time of transition, in many ways.

I was feeling very discontented with my life.

And with the responsibility of this new precious baby girl we now were caring for, my husband and I were feeling like something needed to change.

Then, for Christmas, my mother, Marie, sent me a special gift. 

It was Carla Emery’s Encyclopedia of Country Living.

I still remember the following week when I devoured the book.

I remember reading it cover-to-cover while in the bathtub, while cooking or nursing my baby, and in those precious stolen moments by myself.

It stirred the discontent in me.

I started talking to my husband about it.

He was feeling it too.

We talked about how we were attempting to live our lives the way society and civilization expects, but it felt like putting a square peg in a round hole.

We talked about our dreams, and how we would love more than anything to see our baby girl grow up playing in the mud and climbing trees.

It was mostly talk at that point, until I happened to say something to my brother about it in an email.

He had been feeling the same thing.

We wanted to live in the country, raising our children together as neighbors so they could be close as well.

Then my older sister and her husband were on board.

Our parents, who had been looking for 10-20 acres to retire on, were thrilled about the idea of a joint venture.

Before I knew it, we were shooting emails back and forth looking at different properties and sending the real estate listings to each other.

Just window shopping, right?

My husband and I didn’t have jobs, much less money to buy anything, but it was fun to look!

One day, I looked online and happened to find this one listing.

It was much more property than we were considering, but it was stunningly beautiful and not too far from where my older sister lived.

It had a nice mix of pasture, woodland, and even a decent sized pond, at an amazing price.

The land was beautiful beyond what we could have imagined.
The land was beautiful beyond what we could have imagined.

I emailed the listing to my mom, telling her I knew I’d sent her a lot of listings but she and Dad just HAD to look at this one!

Long story short, we ended up buying it.

Not “we” meaning me and my husband.

It was all of us together: my parents, siblings and our families.

We are all in it together.

This wasn’t our first rural property

Until I was six, we lived on a 5-acre hobby farm next to some other families we knew.

One of those families actually was family.

So basically, I grew up living in the country with my cousins nearby.

It was so fun for us as kids, that when this idea of living near each other came up, my siblings and I remembered what that had been like and thought it would be nice to raise our kids similarly.

Life had taken our family to cities and suburbs overseas and in other states, but we all prefer the rural lifestyle.

Most of us are drawn to country life anyway, so it just made sense.

Buying property with family

After buying our property, we formed an LLC.

We all pay toward the mortgage on the land.

Granted, cooperative living like this can be difficult with different personalities and priorities.

However, we are doing our best to anticipate issues and keep things out in the open as we go along.

Also important is to have some very clear boundaries and privacy guidelines, as well as a general like-minded mentality, and so far it’s been pretty good.

Each family has its own home site with several acres of land, and we have some common areas too.

So now – let’s go back again to Colorado.

Here we were, my husband and I with just temp work, no resources, and a baby to support.

This was the point when we decided we were going to go for it.

Why continue to struggle forever for a life we don’t really even enjoy, when we could instead be fighting for a life that will feed our souls? (Click here to Tweet this)

So – we packed everything up and moved to Washington with the intent to live on the property.

We didn’t quite know how we were going to get there, but we felt very clearly and directly that it was our future, and given the fact that we were in a holding pattern where we were, it felt like the best decision.

The months that followed were very difficult.

We wanted to make our life on the property, but neither of us had a job, much less any money to build with, and we had this precious baby to support so we didn’t feel comfortable just *really* roughing it.

That year was challenging for us, in many ways.

Like many of you, we went through a lot of changes, transitions, dead ends, and fortunately, renewed hope.

And then, as it would naturally happen, we began working on a solid plan.

I’d been able to get a job at a local credit union where I was quickly promoted and really enjoyed my work.

My husband was working as a machine operator at a local box manufacturing company.

We were blessed with two reliable jobs, but it really wasn’t what we wanted.

Our Life as a Two Income Family

The typical two-parent working family thing was the only way we were able to really make ends meet at the time but life was miserable.

I was the worst working mom in the world – while I did enjoy the job itself, I could never balance work and home life.

I absolutely hated having to wake up my tired kids, and schlep them off to daycare for the day when all they wanted was to sit and cuddle with me (daughter #2 arrived in the middle of this time).

I’d then come home about 7:30, eat cold leftover macaroni and cheese for dinner, have a brief snuggle with my kids, and put them to bed.

Interesting side note – I actually used to LOVE when they would wake up in the middle of the night.

Yeah, I’d lose sleep, but it gave me an excuse to snuggle them back to sleep. 

I cherished those moments.

Anyway – what we wanted was me to be able to stay home with our daughters, and we wanted him to make enough to support that in addition to being able to save up some money to build a little cabin on the property.

The other very real thing we had to plan for was income once we are there.

The truth is, it is very difficult to survive on the land if you have no income.

The right land (itself) can provide a living, if your needs are small enough, but there is an interim time.

I like to think of this time as the “bridge.”

You can’t just go throw up a cabin on a piece of land and immediately have that land earning enough to support you.

Infrastructure takes time, and income development takes time.

That time is time you’ll still need to have money to pay for food, gas, and other necessities (not to mention said infrastructure).

Lack of income is probably the #1 cited reason I’ve seen when people talk about obstacles and barriers to living this self sufficient lifestyle.

You have to have some kind of bridge that takes you from point A to point B, and we had no way of getting that.

We were making ends meet, but we knew if we just kept on the way we were going, we’d burn out way before we’d be able to save enough even for a small cabin.

How Much Money Can You Really Make Selling Old Stuff

Here’s what we decided to do

I’d continue working, and we very thankfully accepted daycare assistance from the state so my husband could return to school.

He is extremely intelligent, and could have pretty much done whatever he wanted, but we felt it was important for him to not be in school for the next 4-6 years.

So, instead, he would go to the local community college and train as a mechanical drafter.

Then, when he was done, he’d get a job that made enough so I could quit my job.

Then, we could really start saving money, and I (who have a pretty much voracious entrepreneurial bent) could look around and try various options for self employment.

The idea was that he’d be making more money, and we’d be able to live simpler because I’d have the time to do things like cook from scratch, grow food, etc.

This would allow us to save some money and also allow me to establish a work-from-home income that would help us bridge the gap and potentially provide self-employment for both of us when the time comes.

Realistic Off Grid Power Sources

Here’s what actually happened

My husband went to school for his two years, working part time on the side.

He finished school in 2010 and was almost immediately re-hired by his former employer, but now instead of making the boxes, he’s meeting with clients and designing creative packaging solutions for them.

They also moved us over to the other side of the state, where their corporate office is.

Further away from the property, but my husband was also making more than most of his classmates and he really loved his job.

The huge old cedars didn't leave us any sun for growing food but they sure were majestic!
The huge old cedars didn’t leave us any sun for growing food but they sure were majestic!

We rented a 3 bedroom mobile in a tiny town WAY far south, because we simply couldn’t handle the idea of living in the city.

The area was beautiful, although I was disappointed that the huge tall old cedars that filled the property didn’t allow for any kind of food production.

Costs of everything were rapidly climbing due to the recession, and we decided to have a third child which also had a pretty decent price tag.

My husband’s commute was long, but he chose it, feeling that a longer commute was preferable to living in the city.

As life will happen, we weren’t able to save up as much as we’d hoped, but we were able to do some.

I started trying out different ways to make money, and interestingly I really fell in love with internet marketing.

On my end, I enjoyed the day-to-day life with my kids, and also immersed myself in learning how to apply the marketing concepts I’d learned in school to the internet and making money online.

I have degrees in business and marketing, and I was able to transition to the new and different world of internet marketing.

I’d also started a business selling insulated tumblers online, though it didn’t really take off until last year when I started doing regular coffee mugs.

The Discontent Returns

We were living in that area about two years when we started feeling the itch again.

The nature of my husband’s job made it so he couldn’t really do it from the office where he originally had worked as a machine operator, but we were feeling a very strong yearning to get back to the other side of the state.

By this time, my parents had settled in to their new home on the land, and we were all making plans for projects we wanted to do and income streams we wanted to develop.

Finally, my husband had a moment of “enough” and began talking to his employer to see if there was any way he could work for them from the other office – even if it meant modifying his job.

To his surprise, they were so intent on not letting him go that they worked around and changed things just so that he could work from the other office.

Literally a few weeks after that, it was all set up, and we moved within the month.

That was last fall.

We were then faced with a decision.

Our property is about 90 minutes from the town he’d be working.

Did we want to find a place close to the property so it was easier to develop and work at, but he’d have a longer commute?

Or would he rather have a shorter commute and we’d spend more time up at the property on the weekends?

Our little home for now - it is beautiful.
Our little home for now – it is beautiful.

I left it up to him, since he’d be the one dealing with the commute.

He opted to look for a place closer to the property, which was quite convenient for me!

We were also very blessed to find a small cabin to rent.

Just a 1-room 24×30 cabin with a loft on a large acreage.

It has all the amenities, but it was definitely a change from our 3 bedroom home.

It is a beautiful little place – knotty pine interior and round log exterior, with a nice big kitchen and even a washer/dryer.

Our kids might not have their own room, but they do have a huge sky, a nice swing set and even a pond with a waterfall to float paper boats down.

There have definitely been some adjustments to living here.

Our older girls sleep in a bunk bed on the main floor, and we sleep upstairs with the baby in a pack’n’play next to the bed.

Privacy is near non-existent, but we are closer and more in tune with each other than ever.

The nice thing about living here, and part of why we wanted to, is that we knew we’d be initially building a very small place and this would give us kind of an introduction to living in a small space.

We’ve learned a lot just in the few months we’ve lived here, and have made modifications to our house plan as a result.

So – here we are today, living close to our property.

I’m home with the kids, and my husband is working a job he loves.

Awesome!

Slowly we’re able to set aside some money, and some of the investments we made a couple years back have performed beyond expectation.

It’s not much – maybe about $5000 total – but it’s ours and we can use it for our home.

But really, $5000 isn’t really enough to build a house, is it?

We kinda figured that was the case, and so we had planned on staying here for a few years and building gradually as we have time and cash.

And then, we received a text message from our landlord asking us about our move-out timeline.

Huh?

Apparently, we’d had a miscommunication when we signed the lease…

We didn’t know at the time if we’d be building this spring or not, so opted for a 6 month lease, but then over the winter we thought we’d end up staying.

But the landlord had thought we were for sure planning on leaving this spring, and had already lined up new tenants.

My first thought was panic.

I hate moving, and I don’t want to move.

Not only that, but we got such a great deal on this cabin that if we had to move into town for another rental, that would probably suck up all the money we’ve been able to set aside and then some.

My husband’s commute costs are exorbitant, and so if we had to move, we might end up moving down to the town where he works.

I did not want to do that, since I’d already been making plans to run some meat chickens on the land this summer as well as help my parents with growing a significant amount of food.

But then I thought… why not move to the LAND?

My parents have a camper we could live in – could we?

Just maybe?

Maybe this is God pushing us to “walk in faith” instead of what we think is practical or realistic.

I felt very strongly that I did NOT want to rent in town, and I did NOT want to move anywhere but to the land.

I didn’t think my husband would feel the same way, though, because let’s face it.

What kind of man would want to spend 3 hours commuting 5 days/week and come home to a tiny cramped camper with 3 kids and only one bedroom for EVERYONE??

But when I talked to him about it, the first thing he said was “I feel like our hand is being forced and we need to just build. I definitely do not want to rent another place in town.”

I think my heart sang 🙂

After about a week of frantic discussions, “how can we make this work?” talks with my dad, and phone calls back and forth with the landlord, we then decided we were going to go for it.

All signs pointed towards “yes.”

Just because she's cute, our American Bulldog "Princess Leia"
Princess Leia is an American Bulldog and will make an excellent farm dog – she’s even protective of chickens.

Preparing For Living Off The Grid

We’ve made the decision, and have our initial plan almost complete.

In a few weeks, we’ve got the excavator coming to prepare the site, and then we can get started.

Like I said in the last post, our house will likely not have siding or interior drywall.

We’ll be using a bucket and sawdust for a toilet (and an outhouse, probably), and I’ll be using miniature-sized propane appliances taken from our own small camper (not the one we’ll stay in).

In other words, it will be the very basic of basic homes.

Whatever the minimum is for it to be habitable.

This is interesting because I think a lot of people are concerned about our quality of life.

I think the thing that is important to recognize is that “quality of life” means different things to different people.

For some people it can mean the opposite of what it can mean to others.

Most of our society has a certain expectation for comforts, in the name of quality of life.

And, while we do have our comforts that are not negotiable.

We must have internet, and having a bathtub and not just a shower is a huge deal to us, for example, for us we would much rather start with the very absolute basic minimum we can get by with, in order to establish that independence.

I’ve done the math and have realized that our cost of living, once we are living there, is significantly lower than what it was in the city.

As in, HALF.

Not only that, but a huge part of our cost of living is actually the cost of my husband’s commute and work expenses.

It literally eats up about a third of his take-home pay.

That’s another reason why we feel it is so important to establish a way for us to earn a living from home.

And remember – earning a living from home does NOT necessarily mean you do only farm stuff.

In my opinion, selling your homegrown beef or vegetables is no more or less noble than selling non-farm related products via the internet.

In both cases, you are independently producing something you can sell to earn a living for your family, and that is key.

But that will probably have to be another post someday 🙂

In the meantime – now you know our backstory and how it happened.

And know this – we started talking about this move 6 years ago, and started making a real official “here’s how we’re going to make this happen” plan about two years later.

All American Sun Oven Review

Building and Living Off of the Grid Homesteader Life Affordably

trailer truck camping

Last Updated on

Affordably Building and Living Off of the Grid, As many of you know, my husband and I have been working and planning towards our homesteader life for many years now.

Affordably Building and Living Off of the Grid

While many people don’t start on their rural living journey until after retirement, or spending several decades building a nest egg, we opted for a different route.

Our future home site - Affordably Building and Living Off of the Grid
Our future home site – Affordably Building and Living Off of the Grid

Living off of the grid

We did not want to wait.

We wanted to raise our children in the lifestyle.

So we made a plan to get to the land.

The plan has taken twists and turns over the years.

Has had to adapt, change and flex based on how life happened.

We started six years ago, and our plan until recently has been we would begin building this year.

Slowly constructing over a period of about three years so we can pay for this thing out of pocket.

Affordably Building and Living Off of the Grid

We’re going to build an earthbag home in the underground/bermed style of Mike Oehler.

We’re using a mishmash of various styles, but are heavily inspired by Mike Oehler’s $50 Underground House book as well as the Earth-Sheltered Houses: How to Build an Affordable….

Our own home.

It’s an amazing thought.

Let me re-introduce us for a moment.

My husband and I are in our early thirties, and we have three girls from age 6 to 1.

Best Kitchen Curtain Color to Buy For Your Kitchen

living off of the grid
I didn’t have any good family photos but here’s a cute one of my kids playing at the pond 🙂

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.”

– Dave Ramsey

We are taking that phrase to heart.

We intend to live like no one else, so that we in turn can achieve our dream of living like no one else.

Living in a way that many people dream about.

Living in a 28 foot 1-bedroom camper with 3 kids while we build will be interesting.

And since this cabin we’ll build will be integrated into our final home plans, we’ll have to make some adaptations to the home plans to incorporate this (stickbuilt) cabin.

All American Sun Oven Review

One thing we had not specifically planned on, however, was living off of the grid.

We thought initially that we would like to have the option of going off-grid, but we also liked the simplicity of being on grid.

So, now our biggest challenge in this is the power.

Given the fact that hooking up to the grid will cost about $5000 on its own, we are not going to go that route. Realistic Off Grid Power Sources

I’ll be using a kitchenette compiled from propane appliances taken from our trailer, and will be hang drying laundry or using the laundromat. Solar Power Electricity

We will very likely construct a portable battery bank, to be trickle charged by a small solar setup that we already have, but one we could conceivably transport in order to get it charged.

Or a Goal Zero Solar Generator kit

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!

BUILD NOW

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.

We’ll be using bucket/sawdust toilets.

Rural Property Investment: The Pros & Cons Of Investing In Rural Locations
Home Maintenance Tips that Will Save You Tons of Money

I won’t be able to use my dryer much, and it is going to be a huge sacrifice for me to not use a dishwasher.

But you know what?

It will be ours, free and clear.

And that, my friends, is independence.

I would take that over any McMansion on a golf course you could throw at me.

And as we have the money in our pockets, we can continue to improve, finish and upgrade it (as well as adding on the remainder of our planned home).

P.S. any helpful tips or resources you might like to share about building or living off of the grid would be wonderful and very appreciated 🙂

How to Protect Your Home While You’re Away

Holiday Gift Ideas From Rural Living Today

Holiday Gift Ideas From Rural Living Today

Last Updated on

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.

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
Rural Living Today Holiday Gift Ideas

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.

These Carhartt T-shirts are heavier than most Ts, well made, and reasonably priced.

They come in several colors that still look good after lots of washing, and Carhartt’s short sleeve T-shirts are great for the spring to fall months.

Celebrate Carhartt with Amazing Deals on Apparel & Accessories

Extra batteries for battery-driven tools

You can never have enough extra batteries.

There are few things more frustrating than running out of power in the middle of a project.

Keep a battery charger in the garage, one in the barn, another in the garden shed.

I like these combo sets of interchangeable tools.

I have a drill, handsaw, and flashlight that use the same battery pack.

Speaking of flashlights, you can never have too many!

This year I bought a giant one that will even shine on coyotes hundreds of feet away.

And we have several of these little LED headlamps around; we keep a couple in the truck so we can see the gate lock when arriving home in the black of night.

Check your local stores for specials on these–we found a pack of three headlights with batteries.

Best Tools for the Farm and Homestead

Framing gun, finish gun, finish brad and staple gun.

The last is great for attaching wire cloth, screening, and chicken wire when building chicken tractors and coops.

There’s no substitute!

Nice air compressor with air driven tools

Here’s a combo set with air compressor and tools.

Good quality chainsaw

I recommend a farm-sized chainsaw–not a small startup saw.

I’d get a Husqvarna Rancher chainsaw (Check Prices Here) or the Stihl equivalent.

Make sure you have extra chains and lots of 2 cycle oil additive on hand.

Weed whacker

Either a Husqvarna or Stihl trimmer.

Get a good heavy-duty one with a support strap to hold the weight of the tool while you work.

Remote wireless thermometer

Summer and winter, the first thing I want to know in the morning is the outdoor temperature.

It tells me how the livestock and the garden might be faring and helps me plan my day.

BUT especially on frigid mornings I’d rather not go outside to check the temps.

With a remote weather station you can have several wireless weather station (Check Prices Here) around your property reporting in to one central reader located in the comfort of your home.

I have my eye on this one that can read three remote sensors up to 330 feet from my house.

Good Laptop Computer

A good laptop computer for research, record-keeping, etc.

Brands and formats vary but it’s important to have something you’re comfortable with and that suits your preferences.

Depending on your needs, a tablet may be enough.

Apple peeler – Apple Corer – Apple Slicer

I may be an outdoor kind of guy but hey.

I can find my way around the kitchen!

This fall we spent hours peeling and coring apples the old-fashioned way.

Then I found out about this manually-operated Apple Peeler gadget that will speed things up like crazy next year.

Holiday Gift Ideas Favorites
Holiday Gift Ideas Favorites

Rural Living Today Holiday Gift Ideas Favorites

Jolly Garden Clogs

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE mine!

If I could recommend only one thing (or one pair of things) to my friends, it would be Jolly Garden Clogs (Check Prices Here).

They are durable, very comfy, and easy to slip on and off.

Their sturdy cork insoles support my flat arches and are removable for cleaning.

I wear my red Jollys all year round all over our farm as long as the snow is not deeper than they are tall.

They also disappear from our mud room all the time and can be found on the feet of my daughters and granddaughters.

Men can wear them too!

Jollys come in two men’s styles and two women’s styles.

Adobe oven for our backyard patio area

An Adobe Pizza Oven is on our wish list every year, just waiting for it to rise to the top of the priority list on our developing family farm.

We’re thinking about building something like this.

But for now we will stick to our BBQ Grill.

Can you imagine baking bread, roasting meat, or cooking a homemade pizza in one of these?

Ninja Kitchen System or similar appliance

One of the most important tools in the kitchen!

We use our Ninja Pulse Blender multiple times daily for grinding coffee and herbs, grating cheese, making smoothies, mixing, kneading, and all sorts of other things.

So handy not only for everyday cooking but when there’s lots of garden produce to process.

Kitchenaid Mixer Fruit and vegetable strainer attachment

Our hand-cranked food mill does the job (and without electricity), but for large quantities of applesauce and tomato sauce, this Kitchenaid strainer attachment is a real hand- and time-saver.

Homestead Food Processing Projects and Canning Equipment

I have a large kitchen, but the counters always seem to be full of processing foods, trials, and testing projects…and the endless canning supplies.

Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a separate bowls of bread dough, jars of kefir, crocks of fermenting vinegar, bowls of soaking grains and nuts,dehydrator, canners, etc.?

I’m planning to get a separate set of canning utensils to keep aside for canning only.

Speaking of kitchen projects, I recommend every homesteader kitchen be equipped with both a water bath canner for high-acid foods and a pressure canner for meats, vegetables, and other low-acid foods.

I use some of them all year, but at canning time I spend too much time trying to find them around the kitchen.

Big food dehydrator

I have a small round Nesco dehydrator (Check Prices Here), but oh would I love to have an Excalibur dehydrator (Check Prices Here)!

When I’ve used my daughter’s, I really notice that the Excalibur not only holds more food and has more height flexibility, but also dehydrates everything much faster!

Vacuum Sealer

FoodSaver rounds out the food preservation equipment list.

Vacuum sealing prevents freezer burn and just keeps things fresher, plus it consolidates packages so they stack nicely in the freezer or pantry.

We have a basic model, but the larger models have more capabilities.

Reading for Leisure Time

All this talk of equipment for working makes me want to sit down for a bit to read.

For me that includes reading about working (Getting Started on a Food Supply Plan: Sourcing, Preserving, and Storing Food for Tomorrow’s Uncertain Times), you can buy it here.

Here are some great magazines to read about the homesteading life and more mad scientist experiments to try!

GRIT, Mother Earth News, Hobby Farms, Backwoods Home.

I’d love to sit down and reminisce through the new 40th anniversary edition of The Encyclopedia of Country Living, the book that inspired our homesteading hearts.

Holiday Gift Dream List

Kindle eBook reader

One thing that is extremely handy is Kindle e-reader.

It isn’t just for reading fiction, you can store thousands of great, informative, and educational books on one.

Making them a great tool to keep with you, whether you are working in the shop, the garden, or learning new skills.

I’ve been wanting one for about three years and this year I am finally getting one – very excited!

Pullover Sweater

A nice thick pullover sweater for chilly mornings before the fire warms things up.

I like sweatshirts but one thing my dad Jim can attest to is that I am a big sweater fan.

I’ve been stealing his sweaters my whole life!

Travel mugs to keep my coffee hot

Contigo mugs are bar none the best, although I’ve got a few others sitting around.

I am a creature of habit, and as a creature of habit I love my routine of coffee in the morning and afternoon.

A good travel mug will keep it hot if I don’t finish it in time, which is handy with little ones underfoot!

Kitchenaid Mixer

This is probably one of my most favorite and useful tools.

Kitchenaid is an absolute workhorse.

There are some days I use mine multiple times in the day.

It not only is good to have as a mixer, but it has lots of attachments to do whatever you want, from an ice cream maker to a food strainer (which I use quite a bit!).

You can use it to grind your meat, mix in the seasonings, and then extrude the sausage into links.

A very useful tool!

Shelving Systems – A nice shelving system for canned goods is a good thing to have on hand for anyone who does their own food preservation.

One thing that is difficult is when you don’t really know what you have on hand.

Personally I’m no good at keeping an inventory.

Having a shelf that keeps everything right in sight is hugely useful for planning meals or knowing when it’s time to stock up.

Garden wagon

Wheelbarrows are really nice but if you have a good sturdy garden wagon/cart, you can haul so much more and it is much easier to use than a wheelbarrow.

If you garden at all, this is a hugely useful item that makes life a whole lot easier.

Automatic feeders and nipple Chicken waterers

Available for chickens, hogs, and more

These are something that will also make life much easier when caring for livestock.

At our old house when we had our chickens I loved the fact that my chickens could have plenty of food and water at any given time.

It really came in handy during those busy days running errands, canning marathons, or anything else that might “help” me forget to feed or water my birds.

Large feeders can be found easily online and in feed stores.

We made our nipple waterers similar to this, but you can find ready-made ones at Avian Aqua Miser and The Garden Coop.

Insulated hooded zip-up sweatshirt

My favorite is one I got from North 1 (which is very difficult to find) – it is thermal insulated on the inside and so warm.

I love having the convenience of a hoodie with the warmth of a coat for quick trips outside to grab more firewood, compost pile or to wrangle the animals.

I know Carhartt has some really good ones, too, and they are easier to find than North 1!

Set of cast iron cookware

I would be so lost without my cast iron.

When seasoned it cleans easily, cooks evenly and food somehow tastes better when made in it.

I have several skillets in various sizes and a dutch oven and they pretty much have a permanent residence on my stove.

On my wish list this year is a set of cast iron bread pans.

I have one made from stoneware, and it bakes so much nicer than the thin nonstick one I have.

Indoor/outdoor slippers

Since I don’t have a pair of Jolly Clogs like my mom (and yes, I DO steal them when I visit) I love my slippers that have soles.

They are just sturdy enough that I can run outside for that trip to the woodpile or compost pile and not have to worry about putting on regular shoes.

Holiday Gift Ideas Fun for Younger Homesteaders
Holiday Gift Ideas Fun for Younger Homesteaders

Holiday Gift Ideas Fun for Younger Homesteaders

Fisher-Price Little People Farm

We have to start with this old favorite of our family.

Bethany still has the old 1970s version that our kids all played with.

Of course this one is all modernized, with animal sounds…and does the barn door still “moo”?

Melissa and Doug Farm Friends Floor Puzzle

We love the quality of Melissa and Doug products, and this floor puzzle looks like tons of fun!

Look at all those farm animals and the big red barn.

Pieces are large enough for young children to handle and put in place.

Farm Cube Puzzle by Melissa and Doug.

Remember the kind where each side of each block is part of a different puzzle?

Kids can spend hours rearranging these cubes to discover their favorite farm animals looking back at them.

Lace and Trace Farm lace up cards.

Generations of kids have enjoyed lacing perforated cards with yarn.

These farm animals are adorable (and yes, they’re from Melissa and Doug and we really don’t get paid for advertising their products!

But quality speaks for itself).

My First Farm set for LEGO fans

These duplo blocks are for the young ones, but I know some older kids who would love to build this and play with it too.

My Collage Farm

Four cute little animals and a bunch of goodies to decorate them with.

Little ones need help but older kids can let their creativity fly.

Holiday Gift Ideas Little House on the Prairie books and DVD sets

I’ll never be too old to read about the pioneer life of the Ingalls family.

We used to read the books every year, and now our grand kids are avidly reading them.

The DVD’s they’re among the best for entertaining young people while accurately describing life for the original homesteaders.

Do you have an avid craftier in your family?

My Little House Crafts Book includes instructions for 18 projects that Laura and Mary actually made in the Little House stories.

My Side of the Mountain trilogy

These books were some of our childhood favorites.

They inspired our dreams of self-sufficiency and aspirations to live the life we live today. Prepping gives you options on the road adventure

You can be sure our own children will be reading them in the years to come!

Holiday Gift Ideas Farm Science Set

Farm Science set for older children.

A fun way to learn about how farms work with all sorts of educational and fun activities from T.S. Shure.

Storey Publishing’s game and puzzle books for preschoolers and older kids

These look like so much fun I’m thinking of putting them on my own wish list!

Barnyard Games and Puzzles, Pony Play Games and Puzzles, Chicken Games and Puzzles and Horse Games and Puzzles each include more than 100 brainteasers, word games, puzzles, jokes and riddles.

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
Badland Winches

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.

Holiday Gift Ideas 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.

Trailer Tongue

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.

Trailer Tongue
Trailer Tongue

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?

Tongue weight

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.

10 Realistic Ways to Overcome Food Crisis

Overcome Food Crisis

Last Updated on

Overcome Food Crisis – Prepare to weather rising food prices and potential shortages—starting right now.

This year in the U.S., corn and soybean crops were deeply affected by serious drought.

Many popular processed foods are based on corn and soy.

These two products and other grains are the foundation of commercial livestock feeds.

Our well-being is dramatically affected by things we can’t control: weather, inflation, politics, etc.

However, taking easy steps to prepare for a food shortage is in your control.

How you can overcome food crisis and minimize the effect on your own family.

Within weeks of the drought, a domino-effect had already begun, with meat and poultry operations downsizing and even shutting down in anticipation of unbearable feed price hikes all likely to cause and be able to overcome food crisis.

Preparing for Food Crisis

According to a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) report, “Animal-based perishable foods will be hardest hit.

The USDA projects that poultry products will rise 3 to 4 percent next year, compared to this year’s average.

The biggest rises are seen in beef and veal, rising 4 to 5 percent from 2012 average.

Dairy products will take a hit too, rising up to 4.5 percent.”

Getting Started on a Food Supply Plan: Sourcing, Preserving, and Storing Foods for Tomorrow's Uncertain Times
Getting Started on a Food Supply Plan: Sourcing, Preserving, and Storing Foods for Tomorrow’s Uncertain Times

Availability and prices of many grain products, vegetables, and fruits will also be affected.

The ultimate results of the strain on supply and distribution channels remains to be seen.

If you’ve been postponing starting or stepping up your own food production or storage, now is a good time to move it to the top of your “to-do” list.

Overcome Food Crisis
Overcome Food Crisis

Grow some vegetables, herbs, and fruit.

Anyone can grow something to eat.

Even if your garden soil is poor, you can grow some food.

And if you don’t know how, you can learn!

You don’t even have to wait till next spring to plant a garden or planter.

No matter where you live—cold or warm climate, urban or rural setting, huge farm or small apartment—you can probably grow something green during the fall and winter.

If you’re new to gardening, ask a neighbor or your local extension office what can be grown in your area.

Here in our four-season climate, we have been planting salad greens, root crops, and herbs for harvest throughout the fall and winter.

For successful winter harvests, plants should be mature by the time of the first frosts.

You can mulch root crops in place in the garden; other crops should be grown in hoop houses or cold frames for frost protection.

You may consider looking into getting a small greenhouse.

In a warm-winter area, you can grow many different veggies.

Where winters are cold, you can probably at least still plant mâche/corn salad and claytonia/miners’ lettuce.

In most climates, garlic is best planted in the fall to get established over the winter.

Buy seed garlic for your first planting; in subsequent years you can plant your own garlic cloves.

Autumn is also a good time to plant fruit trees and berry bushes, till and amend next year’s garden plot, build raised beds for spring planting, or set up a seed starting system for winter use.

Winter gardening steps and preps

Request seed catalogs for winter browsing and seed orders so you’ll be ready for spring planting.

Our favorites are Seeds of Change, Seed Savers Exchange, and Baker Creek Seeds.

Learn all you can about gardening in general.

Chat with your local extension or agricultural agents, talk to friends and neighbors with admirable gardens, visit local nurseries that remain open in winter, scour the library and Internet.

Find out what’s in your soil and what’s lacking.

Get a sampling of soil tested at a local lab or a mail-in lab like U of Massachusetts Soils Lab.

Figure out what you’ll need in the way of growing beds, soil amendments, and irrigation.

Be ready to buy supplies in late winter or early spring.

Be adventurous.

Be able to overcome food crisis.

Try growing some veggies indoors in a hydroponic system!

You can also build a DIY Hydroponic System with PVC.

A hydroponics system enables you to save on space.

Raise meat and eggs.

From chickens and rabbits to beef and bison, there’s probably a source of meat or eggs that you can raise in your own backyard or small farm.

We’ve even seen people raising rabbits in garages and basements in humane ways.

There’s still time to build a small winter-friendly chicken coop or rabbit hutch and bring home some laying hens or rabbits before deep winter sets in.

Check out your local farm guide or Craigslist for meat rabbits or pullets (young hens) ready to lay.

Guide To Raising Rabbits for Meat

Raise chickens

There are many ways for beginners to learn about backyard chickens.

You can also start baby pullet chicks now and expect eggs about five months later.

While most local feed stores do not have chicks available in fall, most mail order hatcheries ship chicks year-round or close to it.

Most do require minimum orders of 25 chicks, so you might want to share an order with a friend.

For ultimate sustainability, keep a rooster with your hens so you can hatch replacement chicks in an incubator or under a broody hen.

Learn more with our ebook:

>>Check out our book “Getting Started on a Food Supply Plan: Sourcing, Preserving, and Storing Foods for Tomorrow’s Uncertain Times”

While usually raised outdoors during the summer, meat chickens can be grown out any time of year in a winter-safe coop.

The chicks are usually available only from hatcheries at this time of year, as few individuals sell meat-breed chicks on a local level.

However, locally you may find dual-purpose breed chicks, some of which grow out reasonably meaty.

Another possibility is cull laying hens and roosters, which make awesome stewing birds that yield cooked meat and rich chicken stock.

Raw chicken can be frozen or canned in a pressure canner.

Or you can get everything set up and ready to start a chicken flock in the spring. Chickens are fairly low maintenance, with few stringent requirements.

Chickens must have fresh water, nutritious feed, and sources of grit. Calcium is essential for laying hens.

While mature chickens don’t require heated coops in winter, shelter from wet and windy weather is important.

Raise rabbits

We have not yet raised rabbits ourselves but most people agree they are as low-maintenance as–or even more so than–a brood of chickens.

Rabbits mature quickly, multiply easily (just as the jokes imply), and have a great feed to weight conversion rate.

Rabbit meat tastes similar to chicken and can be used in recipes designed for poultry.

We have seen some good rabbit raising info at Backyard Herds Rabbit Forum, Rudolph’s Rabbit Ranch, and Whisper’s Rabbitry.

Raise cattle and other livestock

Depending on your climate and the size of your land, consider miniature cattle breeds for an ongoing milk supply and eventual meat supply.

Growing vegetables
Growing vegetables

Discover local sources of food products

There are many reasons to buy local foods.

Just-harvested locally grown foods are fresher than anything shipped in from elsewhere.

When we shop locally our food dollars will stay in the local economy.

And some products even have effective health benefits.

Eating honey from bees that gather local pollens can help eradicate people’s allergies to the plants themselves.

Keep bees

Maybe you want to consider beekeeping for yourself.

There’s not much you need to get started beekeeping, and it doesn’t take up a lot of space.

Now we have to consider that local foods also may be the only foods readily available or affordable if our food supply chain is affected by transportation issues or high costs.

Many regions have local farmers markets where you can get to know your local food providers.

Some areas have helpful farm guides listing places to buy various fresh products.

Your local extension office or agricultural agency should be able to give you info.

Another good resource for the U.S. is the directory at Local Harvest.

Start or add to a food storage program

Even if you are planning to raise a lot of your own food, it’s wise to have a stockpile in case a drought or other situation limits your food production.

It is essential to start building a food storage program.

Also include products that you can’t grow or make at home.

Store foods you know your family will enjoy eating; remember seasonings for bland foods like rice and beans.

Foods for food storage

A storage program can include home canned and dehydrated foods as well as purchased groceries, including nut butters and other high protein foods like canned meats.

Warehouse and restaurant supply stores often have great deals on large bags of grains, dry beans, sugar, salt, and other basics.

You can buy multiple small packages and flats of canned goods when you find good deals at the local grocery store.

Eat them, the oldest first, and continue to replenish your supply.

Store your foods at cool temps, but above freezing.

Liquids can freeze during winter, causing cans and jars to explode.

While a garage may be fine for storage in a mild climate, an indoor closet or storage room may be necessary for winter storage.

Learn about storing fresh food.

While you’re at it, remember to store water.

We were glad to have gallons of our stored water when our well pump broke and when some pipes froze.

For drinking and cooking, treatment with water purification tablets or bleach is recommended.

Water for household use like flushing toilets and washing dishes need not be treated.

Store your food in a few different places, if you are able.

You may want to have some in the garage, some in your pantry or in a cabinet, and more food stores in a small off-site storage unit.

In the event of a food crisis or catastrophe, you will be better prepared.

Preserve some fresh food to enjoy later.

You can stretch out your enjoyment of homegrown or locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs, and meats throughout the year.

Make the most of your own garden harvest, but look into other sources of fruits, vegetables, and herbs to preserve.

Visit farmers’ markets, local orchards, and farm stands to buy produce by the bag or box.

If you don’t have preserving equipment and know-how, get some now!

Learn how to can, freeze, and dehydrate.

It is essential to understand food safety guidelines, avoiding botulism and other potential food poisoning by proper preservation.

The major food safety rule is to use a pressure canner (Check Prices Here) for all meats and almost all vegetables.

A pressure canner is different from both a pressure cooker(Check Prices Here) and a water bath canner(Check Prices Here).

When we have questions about food preservation, we rely heavily on university and scientific research info including county extension publications.

An excellent guide is the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Start acquiring canning and freezing supplies and containers.

In the late summer and fall, you might find them on sale in retail stores.

Look for them year-round at thrift shops and yard sales. Just beware of cracked or chipped jars, and have any used pressure canners checked by a food safety agent.

Many local extension and ag agents can do this, often for free.

They only need to test the pressure canner lid.

Basic food preservation needs and helpful accessories

Canning of high acid foods (most fruit products): water bath canner

For canning of low acid foods (anything containing meats or most vegetables and herbs): pressure canner (not a pressure cooker, which works differently) with accurate pressure gauge.

It’s wise to have a dial gauge checked annually for accuracy.

Most county extension offices offer this service for free, especially during summer and fall peak canning times.

You only need to test the lid; leave the heavy pot at home.

All canning: jar rack, canning tongs, canning funnel, glass canning jars (no cracks or chips on rims), lids, rings

Consider a sun oven for cooking and dehydrating: dehydrating unit (electric dehydrator, kitchen oven, outdoor solar oven/racks), storage containers

For freezing: pot and strainer for blanching, storage containers, vacuum sealer to avoid freezer burn

Buy a supply of freezer meat

Every fall and winter, local livestock farmers have meat to sell.

This year, due to expected high feed costs, many are culling their herds even more than usual.

While a large quantity of freezer meat is a substantial financial investment, the cost per pound for many cuts is much lower than grocery store prices.

Depending on your geographic area, you may find beef, pork, lamb, and goat meat available.

Many farmers can sell meat by the whole or half carcass.

Some local regulations allow for sales of quarter carcasses.

If you’re not up for such a large amount of meat, consider splitting an order with another family.

Learn about grassfed vs. grain fed to determine which is better for your family.

Sprout seeds and legumes

A fairly simple way to grow nutritious greens is to sprout legumes, grains, and vegetable seeds right in your kitchen.

They don’t require a lot of equipment, space, or time.

You can purchase sprouters or make them from canning jars or strainers.

You can purchase sprouting seeds online or at local health food stores.

Unless they’ve been treated, food-grade legumes and grains from any source can usually be sprouted.

Add sprouts to salads, sandwiches, omelets, breads, and many other dishes and recipes.

While sprouts are a delicious addition to human diets, they’re also wonderful for livestock.

Sprout a small batch as a treat for your chickens.

You can grow large mats for larger livestock.

Forage for edibles berries
Forage for edibles berries

Forage for edibles

Most areas left to native growth contain a number of plants with edible parts.

A stroll around our own farmstead reveals an assortment of wild edibles including lamb’s quarters, purslane, dandelion, Oregon grape, elderberry, and wild rose hips.

Once you are familiar with your own native plants and aware of which ones are toxic, you may find numerous types of salad greens and berries.

Become a barterer

The practice of bartering, common in days gone by, is coming back into vogue.

The idea is that people trade goods or services of equal value, with no money involved.

Whether it’s knowledge, skills, or tangible products, everyone has something that someone else can use.

Think about what you have to offer: skills, expertise, products, time.

Put a value on it—either monetary or number of hours.

Then consider what you need, find a good match, and make a trade.

Some areas have bartering groups, but it’s usually fairly easy to make a bartering arrangement.

When you want or need something, ask potential providers—friends, neighbors, farms, even other small businesses–if they’d be willing to make a trade.

You might swap fresh eggs for fresh veggies, firewood for boxes of apples, sewing lessons for cast iron cookware.

Learn, learn, learn

Don’t know how to grow a garden, raise chickens, grind wheat, bake bread, make homemade soup?

There’s no reason you can’t learn it now!

There’s tons of info on the Internet and in books and magazines.

Your local library may have what you need, or might even order a new book you request.

Used bookstores, thrift shops, and yard sales are all good places to find books for your own library.

We’ve reviewed a number of helpful publications here at Rural Living Today.

We read Extension publications as well as articles and blogs at GRIT and Mother Earth News.

Storey Publishing produces some great books about gardening, livestock, food preservation, and other homesteading topics.

Lots of bloggers post ideas and tutorials with great ideas. Some of our favorite blogs are listed on our Resources page.

How to prepare for upcoming food supply challenges

Before we discuss the resources we recommend, we want to explain briefly how food shortages and high prices affect us all.

Fallout from the drought

One newsworthy event was a drought in North America that affected the growth of some of the continent’s basic food crops.

This had a twofold effect on consumers.

First, there will be less soy, corn, and wheat available for human consumption.

Yes, that means a smaller supply of grains, flour, and other ingredients for home cooking.

More North Americans will be affected by a different ramification: the strain on production of processed foods like breads, cereals, prepared dishes, and snack foods.

A secondary effect is the shortage of grains for livestock feed.

This will have a domino effect on supplies of commercially-produced meat, eggs, and dairy products.

But high feed prices and shortages will also hit small producers and farm families raising their own livestock.

The majority of them rely on commercial livestock feeds.

Farms of all sizes–commercial and local small producers–have already been selling off stock early to avoid feeding extra animals all winter.

That means less finished meat next year.

Shortages lead to lower supplies for each community and price hikes for the products that are available.

If we rely on more imports to fill the gaps, those products may be even more costly.

Fuel price rises

We’ve seen gas prices fluctuate at our neighborhood gas pumps.

It can cost a small fortune to fill a large gas tank in a family vehicle.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Regardless of what type of fuel we feed the cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs we drive, we’re paying for higher diesel prices as well.

Our food chain relies on international and cross-country transportation via diesel-fueled trucks.

Shipping costs more, and consumer goods absorb the costs in higher prices.

Here’s a good explanation of the process:

Trucks need diesel, which is also around $6/gallon in many parts of California.

As the cost of diesel ramps up, that expense gets passed on to customers buying the things that those trucks are transporting.

You can see where that will take prices for just about everything, since just about everything gets where it’s going on an eighteen wheeler.

About 30% of shipping containers that come to the United States come through California.

Heavy equipment maneuvers the shipping containers.

Those containers leave ports on trucks and trains.

Trucks and trains run on gas and diesel.

Guess where the extra cost for that goes?

Oh yeah, to the rest of us, through the supply chain that feeds our consumption.

The global economy

It’s scary out there, folks!

Most of us who have lived several decades have never seen anything like this.

Even many who have endured their nation’s major financial crises haven’t experienced such economic turmoil.

There’s no telling what will happen in the coming years.

But the writing is on the wall: “Times they are achanging, and it ain’t gonna be pretty!”

Food shortage in America

The U.S. is not free of scarcity and shortages when it comes to food.

Here are some food shortage in America facts you should know about:

  • There are over 30 million, close to 40 million people, experiencing food shortage in America. That’s about 11% of the total population.
  • Many households aren’t that secure with food that many isn’t even capable of supporting a healthy life.
  • Children are the most to suffer from food scarcity in the U.S.

The good news

There’s hope for all of us to be able to overcome food crisis.

It is possible to soften the blow on our own families and communities.

If you’re reading this post, you’re probably already on a path toward smoothing the way and rounding off some of the bumps in the road.

Resources to overcome food crisis

We’re not talking about public assistance or financial aid to overcome food crisis.

We’re talking about learning to provide more for ourselves and rely less on international and national sources. 

Here are some resources that provide info on self-sufficiency and sustainable living– the ability to provide food from year to year.

Preparing for Challenges Coming Our Way
Something Is Wrong With This Picture
Facing a Food Crisis: Realistic Ways to Prepare
7 Reasons to Be Concerned About the Future
Planning Food Storage and Survival
Living Off the Grid Things to Consider can Extraordinary Experience
Make Prepping Survival Your Way of Life to be prepared for survival
Want to do Off-grid Living? Here is How You Can Do it
Building DIY Hydroponic PVC System
Homesteading For Beginners Become Less Dependent
How I Built My DIY Hydroponics System
Yamaha Generator Everything You Need to Know
Ultimate Comprehensive Guide on Generators for Sale
Comparing Generac Generators with other Generator Brands
Briggs and Stratton Generators
Champion Generator
Prices of backup generators
Everything You Need to Know about Generators
Local community resources
Cooperative Extension System 
The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery
Storey’s Basic Country Skills by John and Martha Storey
The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan
Family Friendly Farming by Joel Salatin
You Can Farm by Joel Salatin
Backwoods Home Magazine
Hobby Farms Magazine
Homesteading Today online forum
Farm Dreams online forum

Overcome food crisis

There are many ways to overcome food crisis.

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 including to be able to overcome food crisis.

What’s the Big Deal GMOs?

Big Deal GMOs

Last Updated on

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.

Big Deal GMOs
Big Deal GMOs

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.

And the disgusting thing is, Monsanto has won, stripping innocent farmers of all their assets.

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.

Here is a definition offered by Encyclopaedia Brittanica.

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.

Recently we’ve shared how we feel about Preparing for Challenges Coming Our Way and What’s the Big Deal About GMOs.

Today Jim, who closely watches global economics, has some words on what he sees coming around the pike.

Our purpose is to approach an uncomfortable topic in a comfortable way, and to talk about a challenging situation while presenting some practical ways to prepare and move through it.

As always, we want to focus not on the problems themselves, but on the steps each of us can take as we prepare to face the challenges.

I want to encourage you to understand the current global and national economic situation that we live in and how decisions being made will affect our families.

But more than that, I want to share some important recommendations for actions in the future. I’m doing this because we are indeed in a very critical time in history.

Government and GMOs

Many of the personal decisions we make in the coming months have the potential to impact our lives seriously–either positively or negatively.

I love my country. America has been a great country to grow up in.

I lived overseas for part of my life, and each time I came home, I would kiss the ground, as I was so thankful to be back.

Yet something is wrong. What we hear from Washington and New York is not what we see happening.

Things are NOT getting better.

In fact, there is really no possible way for things to get better without a major reset.

Government statistics don’t make sense.

Sadly, I no longer can trust much of what the media reports, what our political leaders say, and especially comments from Wall Street (too big to fail banks).

As I follow through on my own research, most of it in the global and national economic news arena, I have come to conclude that we are on the verge of a global economic crisis.

I don’t say this lightly.

It’s a crisis that may be uncontrollable, depending on how our leaders ultimately address it.

It may even cause or precipitate another major war.

Ways to avoid eating GMO products

Preparing for Challenges Coming Our Way
10 Realistic Ways to Overcome a Food Crisis
Facing a Food Crisis: Realistic Ways to Prepare

7 Reasons to Be Concerned About the Future

We live in extraordinary times.

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.

They will.

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.

Big Hurdle is overcoming “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.

If you’re interested in more details about what we see coming around the corner, read his article “7 Reasons to Be Concerned About the Future.”
Practical steps: preparing for an uncertain future

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.

  1. Learn how to raise a variety of non GNO vegetables, fruits, and livestock for eggs and meat.
  2. Start on a food storage system.
  3. Learn to preserve food by canning, dehydrating, and freezing.
  4. Talk to your neighbors to find out who can provide what items in a time of need.
  5. 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.

Build community

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.

10 Things to Love About Rural Living

Ten Things to Love About Rural Living

Last Updated on

Things to Love About Rural Living, After living for a long time in urban and suburban environments, I am now living a rural lifestyle.

Is this for everybody?

Maybe not.

But I sure do enjoy rural living 52 weeks a year in a place where I used to vacation for 2 weeks a year.

Things to Love About Rural Living

Apart from a few years that I spent as an urban dweller many years ago, I have lived most of my life in the country.

For me, it is the only real choice. 

If you’re like me, then you know what I’m talking about.

City living doesn’t have a lot to recommend it.

The noise, the stink, the pollution and the excessive number of people, all of these things are enough to drive me crazy. 

My life in the country is different in virtually every way.

Surrounded by the soft sounds of nature, I have plenty of opportunities to contemplate my thoughts or carry on a conversation.

The air is crisp and clear.

When the sun goes down, I feel like I have a front seat in the audience for viewing the entire Milky Way. 

I sometimes go for days without seeing another person except those who live with me, yet I’m never lonely.

There’s just so much to see and do.

My garden always needs tending, and I have animals that make for incredibly good company. 

Of course, one of the best things about country living is being able to be so close to nature.

During my years in the city, I felt nearly cut off from nature.

All of my walks involved asphalt and concrete.

Seeing some grass, let alone walking on it, was rare.

The trees I saw tended to be less than impressive, and flowers were nearly unheard of. 

Things are incredibly different where I live now. Off-Grid Living: Surviving the Outdoors

For miles around, I can explore pastures, meadows and forests.

The gently rolling landscape is just perfect for enjoying a healthy walk, and you can bet that I’m out there pretty nearly 365 days a year. 

I will admit that as I have gotten older, the terrain has become a little more difficult to handle.

It’s only natural that after many years of activity I would experience some joint stiffness and other mild complaints.

Plus, sometimes I feel like I’m just not as surefooted as I used to be. 

Now, I have never been accused of being a quitter, and I don’t intend for that kind of mindset to take over at this point.

I started looking around for a solution.

A friend that I regularly run into at a store in town suggested that I look into getting a walking cane, so I started doing some searching on the Internet.

Investing In Rural Property: Challenges To Expect

Twisted Sassafras Turned Knob Walking Cane

That’s how I discovered the Brazos Walking Sticks Company.

It’s a US company that’s located in Texas, so I feel like they really understand my fiercely independent lifestyle.

The fact that each of their walking sticks is fashioned by hand, one at a time, was also incredibly appealing. 

I mean, who’s heard of that kind of craftsmanship in this day and age?

Most products are turned out by the dozen on mechanized assembly lines located in some other country that isn’t the US.

However, I feel like this is one company that’s really doing it right.

They genuinely care about their products and what people think of them. 

I spent quite a bit of time on their website before ultimately deciding on the Twisted Sassafras Turned Knob Walking Cane.

Its appearance is really eye catching.

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!

Ten Things to Love About Rural Living
Ten Things to Love About Rural Living

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.

10 things child gardening
10 things child gardening

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?

No.

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.

My family lives here too!

Advice on Property Development that can hurt you
Moving to the Country Start of the Journey
Factors That Limit The Refinancing or Financing of Rural Properties
What No One Tells You About Selling a Home

And the top reason I love rural living: The Importance of Family Traditions

I love rural living: The Importance of Family Traditions
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.

Family Ice Skating
Family Ice Skating

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.

Here are a few of our own special customs.

Things Hunters Don’t Know About Whitetail Deer

Tree ornament collections

Tree ornament collections
Tree ornament collections

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.

Time-saving Hacks

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

Reindeer cookies with Grammy
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”

Optional:

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.

Do you have a special end-of-school year party?

Jump-in-the-fall-leaves day?

Snow pudding with the first good snowfall?

Clever Ways to Extend the Space of Your Rural Home

Tradition is tradition!

This December many families all over the world are grieving after tragic losses.

Others are struggling to make ends meet and navigate an ever-changing economical climate.

In the midst of it all, we are ever mindful of the true reason we celebrate Christmas.

Jesus is the reason for the season, and our hope for navigating the future is in him.

We all wish you a warm and fulfilling holiday season.

Our blog may be quieter than usual while we spend time with family and friends, but we have more helpful posts and something new planned.