After not having written a post since March, I wondered why I was not interested in doing so, or why I hadn’t. My conclusion was that the blog needed an update.
For those of you who follow us, you may notice that the blog address is different as well as the name of the blog. “Conserver Life” instead of homesteading 101.
We are still what we consider homesteaders. But our focus as homesteaders, I have been finding, has been leaning more towards not spending money and doing as many things as we can ourselves.
Actually, most of my past posts are about that, but I always felt I needed to stay true to the original idea for this blog so I tried to make it revolve around homesteading specifically. Now the blog will move even more towards not spending money as homesteaders and as non-homesteaders.
I really appreciate all of you! Thank you!
Our greenhouse is finished. Well, except for painting the trim. The plants that have been in there so far this summer are growing somewhat faster than those outside, but I feel this is likely due to transplant shock of those that were put out.
As I have said before this greenhouse was built with mostly scrap/recycled/savaged materials with the exception of a few pieces of wood and the roof plastic. Even the vinyl siding was salvaged from the dump.
It is functional, not bad looking and seems to be working well.
As for the plants that are growing inside, they are also doing quite well. We have tomatoes, peppers, and herbs in there as well as outside on the patio.
This is all really an experiment for me. I wanted to try to grow vegetables in pots, in and outside of the greenhouse, to see if and how easily it could be done here in our climate.
What I have found is that it is easy to grow your own food in pots on balconies or outside on your patio. The easiest things I have found to grow are herbs, onions, obviously tomatoes, peppers, kale… well everything really.
I even have corn growing in two pots just to see if it would work. And yes it works.
Recently, several people have complained to me about the increased prices at the grocery store, particularly vegetables. Of the people who complained to me, some lived in the city and some lived in rural areas.
I can understand that there will be certain places in urban areas in which it will be difficult to have any kind of outdoor space for plants. But everyone has an indoor place for one plant.
So there is really no excuse not to do this except that you are completely set against doing it.
Why should I grow my own food? Isn’t it time consuming?
My answer to this is, no. But it IS a lifestyle. My opinion ( if it matters) is that everyone should learn how to grow SOMETHING of their own, even if it is just flowers or houseplants. I believe tending to garden, even a small one, is an important part of being human. But you don’t have to start out growing everything at once. And of course if you don’t want to that is your choice. Just don’t complain to me about the price of food.
When you learn how to grow even the most simple and small amounts of food for yourself, you are connecting to nature, you can control where some of your food comes from and you learn something new every time you plant something. This last point is the most important one of the three in my mind.
What to grow
Growing your own herbs is the best way I have found to start growing food. You can grow all of the oregano, basil, coriander, parsley and dill you need for a whole year in pots in a small space. Parsley can grow inside all winter in a sunny window, and early in the year you can start coriander (cilantro), dill and even small onions in pots to pinch for fresh flavour in your cooking.
Multiplier onions can provide green onions before they mature AND just the greens if you want. If you leave them to mature, the bulbs can be saved and planted at another time. There is really no way to make a mistake in planting them.
Other really useful plants to plant in pots are tomatoes and peppers. They take a little more attention, especially pruning for the tomatoes but nothing that can’t be handled.
Tomatoes never have to go bad because if you grow too many because you can freeze them whole and use them anytime during the non-growing season.
Anyway, I’m not getting rid of my greenhouse just because I don’t need it. I love it and will use it to start the large amount of veggies we need each year.
But it is time for people to take matters into their own hands and start growing some of their own food if only just to eat something amazing.
Recently, Ernie did some work on the bathroom. Our bathroom has been in pieces for 2 years. It has taken us that long to dismantle, design, choose, and buy the stuff we needed to finish the project.
Actually I am not really complaining. Our favourite thing when doing a project is to do it slowly. And that we did. We did that because we didn’t want to make any mistakes.
In the picture below, Ernie is varnishing the sink stand. He made it out of Maple plywood. We stained it with dark stain and then varnished it with water soluble varnish.
The next picture is the bathroom mostly done. The sink was purchased at a hardware store and was really the only choice we had and it was in stock in the store. If we had to do it again, I would either order one that we knew was eco-friendly – if such a thing exists, or we would make our own out of something recycled. The plumbing is not done i the pic that is why there is a rag hanging out of the wall. Obviously the sink tap is not cheap. We have found that often you get what you pay for so we spent some money on that.
The ceramic wall tiles were left overs at the store and they had enough for this surround. Ernie bought pine panelling for the wall behind the sink and a small section on the other end of the bathtub. This will be varnished with the water-soluble varnish as well. Just as an aside, the mirror in the picture was salvaged and Ernie made the frame from scrap wood. I varnished it.
So from a homesteading perspective, I feel we did the best we could on the recycling/reusing side and the not spending too much side. Ernie did all the work himself and did it at a relaxed pace, not stressing himself out at all. It took several weeks but was worth the wait.
My 4 HP High Velocity dog dryer is outrageously loud. I bought it when that was all you could get. In fact, they now make HV dryers that hardly make any noise at all – at a nice high price. I am not going to throw this dryer out and buy a new one. The noise however is unbearable and in the winter I can’t put it outside to dampen the sound.
So Ernie and I came up with a way to save the dryer. He cut a hole in the drywall that separates the workshop from the dog room and put the dryer hose through the hole. The dryer now sits outside the dog room and only the hose comes through.
Imagine having to have a motorcycle or snowmobile revving its engine in the same small room as you. This is what it was like before this change.
Ernie found some old vacuum hose at the dump and that’s what is used to go through the wall and attach to the original dryer hose. The dryer and hose is now out of sight and in a contained area so it is not an eyesore.
We used electrical tape to secure the hose to the hooks on the wall but I will be covering that with something a bit more appealing to the eye.
Finally the hose is long enough now that I can use it properly. The pic below shows it hanging from the ceiling onto the grooming table.
So, all of this is just really the start of changing over to a more eco-friendly business and way of living. Some may think it looks cheap and crappy but I believe it is a state of mind. We take our time to finish projects and eventually it will look better. If we expect everything to be new and cookie cutter, then old buildings will be torn down and good stuff will be shown in the garbage. Not here anymore.
Our kitchen renovation is complete.
We chose an expensive sink and tap. The reason was, that it was the best quality we could get in the style that we wanted. We splurged on these two things because they are important to making our daily homestead lives comfortable. We don’t splurge on everything – obviously – but this helps to make it feel like we are living well (which we are) but still saving money.
The sink will last forever and the tap is really the best tap for us because we don’t have to touch the handle with dirty working hands (that were cutting meat or other yuck) to turn on the water. We can use our arm or elbow. This makes cleaning easier and makes things more sanitary really.
The counter top and cupboards are not conventional but I will have to leave that for another post.
Spending more money on certain things that you need helps to offset the times you don’t spend, especially on frivolous stuff. You will end up with awesome useful things you need that are incredible to use and nice to look at and still be saving money because you aren’t spending money on everything you want. And you won’t feel deprived in the process. This is a key to homestead spending.
A few weeks ago the dryer quit working properly. It would still tumble but not heat. So we bought a new one and the old one got put out to wait to be picked apart. On a nice day Ernie (and the dogs) worked on salvaging some parts. The part that he figured was broken was way in the interior and the whole thing would have to be taken apart to get at it. That is why we opted for a new one instead of fixing this one. We normally don’t do that but did this one time. Ernie suggested we use the tub for a bonfire barrel which I think we will because we have been looking for one for awhile.
So much stuff goes in the garbage. Sure there is some stuff that is actually unusable, but the majority of items are reusable or recyclable. I’m sure most people have a story of something they have saved from another person’s garbage, from the garbage dump or from a family member.
To make a point, I am really interested in vintage decor. We have two vintage clocks. The first one was in this house when I moved in. It was my mother-in-law’s and was an electric clock with a cord and was not being used. We took the cord out and put in a battery mechanism. Sorry about the dust – it is in the dog room.
The second clock is even more spectacular. We found it at a flea market for 50 cents. The mechanism in it was original but didn’t work, so again we changed it and now have the most gorgeous clock.
Both clocks are made of plastic and both are made in the USA.
We don’t have a bed frame. Our bed sits on the floor and has for almost 8 years. A few weeks ago my hubby’s sister got rid of her waterbed and didn’t want the wood frame. We took took it and now it will be made into our new bed frame after it has been dissected and put back together. Nothing like a beautiful free hardwood bed frame even if you do have to put in sweat equity.
We have a small house because it is:
1. less to clean
2. an interesting older building (almost 100 years old) that has been renovated
3. saves us money because we own the house
4. reduces waste because we aren’t tearing it down to build a new one
Our decor is rustic/vintage. I will be discussing this in the next several blog posts.
The most important point here for homesteaders is that they use what they have. We didn’t tear down what we have to build something new to make it was more stylish or more impressive.
For example, we will start with the business. I groom, train and board dogs for a living. Most people who do this build new and make it as fancy as they can, usually a modern look. I decided to make the grooming and boarding area in a small section of the garage which is also the workshop. The whole garage is about 12 feet wide and 24 feet long. Because of the small size we have to make use of every but of space in a way that maximizes the storage capacity.
This is the boarding room or “dog room” as we call it. It is certainly not new, but it really works and instead in of tearing the whole thing down and re-building we are simply making changes with what we have. Everything that is in this room is made with recycled materials with the exception of the wood that goes up the wall.
The cupboards above the kennel were taken from a house I used to own and found a use here. The owner of that house actually MADE those cupboards himself out of plywood several decades ago.
You can see the large green fan on top of the kennels. This is an old fan but works perfectly and you can’t buy fans that are this sturdy that are made in North America anymore.
The sliding glass door that you can see on the far right was also salvaged from a relatives home as it was being thrown out. Works perfectly.
Sure the cement floor has a few divots in it but that is only cosmetic. It does not need to be replaced.
The only thing in this room that is not my favourite and needs some adjustments is the door. This is the only door we could find because the roof is low and the door had to be cut down to fit so a metal door which would be preferable will not fit. We are keeping our eyes open. For now this will do.