Tag Archive | simple living

We’re Building A Greenhouse

Our main focus on the village homestead is to reduce consumption of stuff we don’t need. That doesn’t include what we eat though.

We are actually increasing the amount of vegetables, including herbs that we grow ourselves. This means we need more containers for planting, growing medium and trays to put the containers in. We also need more space.

This year we decided it was time to have a greenhouse to support these plants. Since finally starting a business dealing with herbs and garlic, I felt it was now unavoidable to build one.

Ernie drew up a couple of plans and looked in a few books and we designed a greenhouse based on where it will be situated and the materials we had. We wanted to use as much of what we already had as possible.

Using What We Have

Over the years, Ernie has saved old windows that were replaced on the house, all kinds of wood, pieces of siding, nails and screws, and many other things that might come in handy for building. The only things that we were missing for this project were the concrete for the footing (which we didn’t really need), the roofing, which will be purchased fibreglass panels and some miscellaneous pieces of wood like some studs and a piece of plywood.

The door is even the old front door from the house. Nothing goes to waste.

We chose a slanted roof because it would be more efficient for collecting water. The tall side is north facing and has the door but no windows. There will be enough light from the other three sides. Rain water will be collected on the one side or go into the raspberries in the ground around the greenhouse. Water will not collect on the north side where we will be entering.

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My plan is to grow certain plants in the greenhouse all summer. These will be the tomatoes that I want to save seeds from in particular (heirloom), and some herbs that need the heat.

Since the building is not completed yet, I will be posting again on the progress and then on how I am filling it up with plants. Ernie figures it should be done over the weekend.

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How I Use My Time On The Homestead

Our homestead is unconventional but is one nonetheless.  It is one because we are homesteaders by vocation. We do the most we can for the environment, self-sufficiency and frugality.

To do and be all these things, it is important to have a daily routine that gets stuff done but is flexible to things that might come up. And things always come up.

Sometimes you just don’t feel like doing something. There is nothing really wrong with that. Feelings are facts, I always say. The only thing that absolutely needs to get done are those things that involve taking care of animals or if the garden is very weedy. The rest of the time I follow a schedule that removes the need to make too many decisions about what I need to do.

Morning:

I work from home, so in the morning I have to get my work done before I do anything else. This means I get up early (well early for me, just 7 a.m.) to work on the computer. I do that for an hour and a half. The quiet is what I need and the dogs and Ernie are still sleeping. There is minimal traffic noise. So at least I can get a good amount of work done first thing.

At 8:30 a.m. I feed the dog and myself. The new puppy is learning the routine now and doesn’t fuss in the mornings after breakfast. I work again from 9:00 – 10:00. From 10:00 – 10:30 the puppy gets a playtime and the other dogs a stretch, so that I can start working again from 10:30 – Noon.

Afternoon:

Since we don’t have any livestock other than dogs (yet), I spend the afternoon working with them. I train and video that and then edit and upload videos to YouTube. I may also at this time video something for Homesteading 101 as well.

When I start making supper around 4 p.m., things are a little more chaotic but still get done, because I am not thinking about all the other work I have to get done – it’s already done because I stuck to the schedule. This is where I can feel the benefit fully of getting work done in the morning. I haven’t had most of the day to think about what I haven’t done. When you have many things to do that are just regular routine things and are fairly unimportant (not talking about taking care of animals here), it is easy to let those things take over your time.

Evening:

This is the time I spend with Ernie and the dogs. If we feel like working on something and are not too tired, we do. If not we don’t.

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It took a while to get this schedule figured out, even though it’s pretty simple. I have made numerous schedules in the past, and have never been able to follow them. With this one, I seem to be able to make it work.

Maybe it’s because of the simplicity of it. I have no choices at certain times of the day. Removing other options of what to do reduces decision fatigue which I have found to be a real problem in the past. Because it seemed like there were so many things to do (even though they were unimportant), I became frozen – not knowing what to do first.

If I take care of the the thing that is most important to me first thing in the morning so that it gets done, I don’t have to worry about finding time later.  If I don’t do it first thing, it won’t get done.

So that is mainly how I manage my time on the homestead. Things that need to get done may change, but I will always remember to get the most important things done early.

What I Learned By Going On Vacation

Since harvest is almost done around here I thought I would start discussing another project – something other than cooking the food that we grow.

I have a renewed motivation regarding what I want to contribute to the world. I’m sure many, if not all of you have a similar thought, that you want to live congruently with your beliefs and contribute your best.

Recently, we took a long trip. We were gone for 10 days and drove about 5000 km or 3100 miles to visit a friend in Ontario, Canada. The total cost for the trip was really no more than what most people would spend on a yearly vacation, but what I found was that I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I thought I would based on how much we spent. Considering we camped every night and cooked most of our food, the price tag was too much.

It was was great learning experience.

I learned that I don’t like rushing vacations. Our biggest mistake was to allow other people to rush our vacation. I had planned this getaway weeks in advance and two days before we left, a client called (one that I can’t say no to) and wanted to book his dog in for part of the time that we would be gone.

That worked out fine however because we had to come back before that since our sitter for Tommy, our dog who can’t travel, was going away two days before the boarder was to arrive. So either way we had to rush the trip.

I learned that I have to learn or accomplish something while on vacation.

I don’t really like being idle or just travelling for the heck or it. Many people can and need to do this but as of now I don’t. This trip was actually a working vacation because the friend we visited is a breeder of Hungarian Kuvasz. We really went out there to pick up a pup. Yes, it is a long way and she could have flew him out to us, but the amount that we learned by doing the trip was more important than not going.ira1

The puppy we picked up is part of a goal or contribution I want to make to our lifestyle and the environment. Many of you already have livestock guardian dogs. These dogs are important to keeping wild animals, livestock and livelihoods safe. I believe they help us all to work together with nature not against it.

On another note, since neither Ernie nor I had been that far into Ontario, we felt it was worth it in the experience. We learned that large amounts of traffic and lots of people are something we want to minimize in our lives.

 

I learned that I don’t really need to go traveling that far to enjoy myself.

The amount of driving we did was horrendous. Much of the time it was what I could call not enjoyable. But because we were there and had to continue, I tried to enjoy everything. When you do that, time goes slowly and you can take in everything. You remember more. You aren’t just trying to get to the next destination faster to get it over with so that you can unwind on the weekend.

Most people I know go on vacation to get away from a life that is boring and uneventful, to break up the monotony, or to rest their overworked minds. Time goes by quickly because there are no memories worth remembering. When you make your life full of different things and novel experiences, you make memories and time slows down. You enjoy everything more instead of just working to get through another week.

That said, I now realize that I can enjoy things that happen locally more because they are what I CHOOSE to do, not what I dread to do. This is so important. If I dread something, I know to make an effort to stop doing it. For me it becomes completely unproductive to continue.

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The more things you do that you want to be doing, the easier it will be. Most of the things that we do are done because of habit or fear. To slow your time and increase your enjoyment of things simply do more of the things that excite you in larger blocks of time.

So, if we need to drive to a destination, we will make sure that we stay there for several days or even a week to enjoy the local atmosphere. After all that is really what a vacation is about anyway.

Anyway, that’s what I learned and what I got out of the trip. From a homesteading perspective it was good because I found that for me a simpler vacation is better. I think that is how I was always trying to live in the first place.

Rural Business Promotion – On or Offline?

Living rurally is definitely different from living in urban areas for many reasons. When thinking about promoting your small business, there are a few things that are important to consider as being challenges and benefits.

Advertising In An Area Of Low Population

Reliable access to the internet can be one of those annoying differences between rural and urban areas that put a damper on promoting a business to your ideal customer. Luckily, depending on what area you live in, it might not matter that much. Promoting to the locals is often best done by using paper advertising.

As a social media manager for rural small business, I don’t always advocate for my own services. It all depends on the area you live in and why people are coming into your town.

Non-Paid Advertising

In very small communities, posters on bulletin boards are still used to notify locals of what is going on – even with the younger crowd. Word of mouth is quite a good promotional tactic for small, service based businesses such as electricians or carpenters. Often, many businesses don’t even really have to advertise at all.

Where we live, only the larger businesses such as contractors and hotels do much paid advertising in the local newspaper or online. Everyone else relies on non-paid advertising. There are many people working on their own as sole proprietors who just get to know people in the area and get more than enough work from that. So actually, their best advertising tactic is in-person sales of their service and word of mouth.

This is the old 45 highway

Digital Advertising

In our village, which is a tourist town, most businesses can use social media to their benefit because the majority of sales is done during the spring/summer and weekends when cottagers and tourist come in. These tourists come in from up to 4 hours away and have access to good internet services. So they can find out whats going on here by using the internet as long as a business is using it properly.

Many organizations here still use only posters pinned to bulletin boards simply because they have not realized the benefits available to them in using digital advertising. They also spend money on advertising in the local newspaper, which is useful to a degree but limited as well to the older newspaper readers. The younger groups are not reading the newspaper with as much regularity. This poses a problem for some of these organizations, who are also made up of locals who in our area are all older residents of the village.

What is Appropriate?

Each town or village will need to determine on its own what is the most appropriate and cost effective means of advertising or promotion for them. Since most social media is free it cannot hurt to have a presence there. However, the thing about social media is just that – it is social and needs to be updated with regularity. The cost of using social media if you do not have the ability to post regularly is mostly in paying someone to do it for you. This can be a problem for communities that are not really going to benefit from using it, as it can be costly to pay someone to be a manager.

If a sole proprietor or volunteer of an organization can do the work well her/himself, then it won’t hurt. But not updating your social media often – at least twice a week – will not do you any favours in increasing your credibility.

 

It is impossible to know whether or not internet service will actually improve in rural areas or not. Some places may improve while other may not. This is also something to take into account when working on a marketing plan or deciding whether or not to actually do the extra work to post online.

Either way rural businesses are not going anywhere anytime soon. It’s just a matter of figuring out what is the best thing for you and your rural small business.

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Shed in field with tarp roof

Salvaging Bread

On a recent camping trip, a loaf of pre-sliced homemade raisin bread that we brought along ended up being moved back and forth between locations in the vehicle. This happened because we had more food than space to store it in and the bread got kicked out of the cooler. When we started out it was a fresh loaf and when we arrived home with it uneaten, it was in mostly tiny pieces.

I was able to salvage about 3 pathetic slices for breakfast after we got home. My first thought was to toss it, but then I quickly realized it could be made into bread pudding. I have never made or even eaten bread pudding, but have heard many people rave about it. So I used the whole loaf and made some up.

Luckily my husband eats anything, because after tasting it, I decided I am not a fan. This is not to criticize anyone who loves it, for sure. It is just my opinion. What I do love about it is that the bread does not go to waste, which is likely what happens a lot to bread that has become stale in most households. One of our goals in life is to waste nothing and live frugally, and I believe this is where bread pudding originated – from people living frugally and not wanting to waste anything. If the bread had not had raisins in it, I would have likely given it to the dogs over several days mixed in with their regular meals.

The recipe for bread pudding is simple – bread, cream or condensed milk, hot water, butter, salt, vanilla and eggs. You mix the milk and hot water, and pour it over the bread in a bowl. Once it cools to luke warm (so the eggs don’t cook in the bowl), you pour the mixture of eggs, vanilla, melted butter and a bit of salt into it, mix it up and bake at 350 F for 1 hour.

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If I didn’t remember the recipe and needed to make this I would just make it to taste using the above ingredients. You don’t even really need vanilla. We used real maple syrup as a topping but anything sweet could work. The recipe called for a runny brown sugar topping but since we don’t have brown sugar in the house, the maple syrup was more than acceptable.

With the syrup, it tasted to me sort of like soggy french toast. This stuff could definitely pass for a breakfast and could be gussied up with more raisins and maybe even walnuts and cinnamon. I think I might have cooked it in a pan that was too high though. It did puff up quite a bit and would have overflowed if the pan had been smaller, but after cooling it shrank considerably. The texture was the part that I found the most unappealing.

I don’t foresee making this again for a very long time, mostly because I hope we don’t destroy bread this way again. If we have any dried out bread that is not in so many crumbs and pieces, I will attempt to make croutons, which I prefer to the sweeter and softer bread pudding.

So to clarify, there is really no need to waste anything, especially food. We go out of our way to use up anything that we haven’t eaten soon enough in different ways, like this bread, and of course we compost everything else that is inedible for us or the dogs. Our dogs really appreciate any real food we can give them that is not spoiled.

UPDATE:

I have tried the pudding once again and doctored it up with walnuts and cream and I can now say that I like it.

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Use What You Have

We don’t buy anything fancy when it comes to stuff for the yard. IF we do need something, we buy local or North American made. The picture here is of the table we have on the deck. It is made from brown treated 2x4s and set on top of cement blocks that have been at this house for decades – before I was even here.
The flower pot on the table is from the garbage dump. Oops there is a dent in the flower pot…

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Boil Your Water?

Not long ago, our village was put under a boil water advisory due to some maintenance that was happening at the water plant. There wasn’t really much of a risk and Ernie kept on drinking the water from the tap but I decided that it was important to actually go through with boiling, cooling and drinking that water.

It is easy to take things for granted. I wanted to actually experience what it was like to have to go through the inconvenience of doing the work to have clean drinkable water.

The truth is boiled water tastes awful. But it might be important to try this out for a while just to be prepared for something that happens to thousands of people everyday.

Below: My boiling water

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No Power? No Problem.

A few weeks ago the power went out for a couple of hours so I decided to make coffee on the propane burner in the garage – with the door open!

No need to worry about running out of coffee filters or not having a coffee maker. Yes we have propane in a can, but for emergencies like this one…used very seldom.

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More Wooden Stuff

Since we are talking about wooden items, I just wanted to post a picture of these neat trash cans that hubby made from scrap wood.

Cost of materials:  about 25 cents total.

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Make A Nice Bed Frame For Almost Nothing

Here is a way to get your creative juices flowing without spending a lot of money and make something necessary and useful in the process.

This bed was made by my hubby out of 1x6s. We wanted a certain look so we made it instead of travelling to the city and buying a cheap frame made out of particle board. This bed is sturdy and cost $50 in materials.

Even if you don’t do any building you can still figure this out. All you need is a measuring device – ruler, tape etc, wood, screws and screwdriver (you may want to have a drill to pre-drill holes as the wood may crack if you don’t. You can use a hand drill for this), and metal braces the length of the bed to support the mattress. Salvage braces could work well for this as well.

This mattress is old. I don’t recommend getting used mattresses from people you don’t know. Buy new or make your own (that is for another post).

We also added a headboard made out of scraps that we had left over from panelling the stairs. Very economical and sustainable if you get your wood from the right source. You may want to harvest your own from your woodlot if you have one. That would make a nice rustic decor. We will likely do that in the future.