Sunday, December 8, 2013

Batten down the hatches!

Most people, when they hear the words "Winter Storm", prepare by going to the store to buy some bread, milk, and perhaps some batteries for that long neglected flashlight lying in a drawer. They pick up some cat liter to keep in the car for emergency traction and maybe a blanket but that's about it. Well, when you live in the country you have to take winter preparedness a little more seriously especially when you are homesteading.

For the last week our weather men have been trying to nail down the forecast for the winter storm that was headed our way. We knew it was coming so we started getting ready for it last weekend. My husband chopped wood and stacked it by the house in preparation for the cold weather that was headed our way the weekend before. Since the goats are in a pen that is moved almost daily, they were moved closer to the house so we could keep an eye on them.

Since we don't have running water I brought home an extra 20 gallons of water in case we couldn't, or didn't want to, get out. I did our grocery shopping before the storm hit so we wouldn't have to do it this weekend. I also got a charger, a deep cycle marine battery, and an inverter just in case it got really bad and we lost power. With the battery and the inverter we could at least charge the cell phone, tablets, run a lamp or the wi-fi so at least the kids wouldn't be completely bored. Plus having access to the internet would let us keep up on the news and storm conditions.

I didn't get a chance to pick up some hay for the goats before the storm so we headed over to our neighbors yesterday and picked up a bale which the goats were very pleased with. I also got over to the tractor supply store and picked up a Flock Block for the chickens. Most of them have refused to leave their coop with all of this snow on the ground. The block will give them something to peck at and provide grit for them. The geese don't seem to be bothered at all by the snow.

We ended up with about 3 1/2 inches of snow and no power outages. Our little wood heater has been keeping us quite warm and we added the cast iron tea kettle to add some humidity to the air. I have said before that homesteading leads to preparedness and preparedness leads to homesteading. If you choose the homesteading country lifestyle you need to be prepared to take care of most of your needs, at least for a short time, during these severe weather events.

The nice thing about winter storms is they do add a that little something that makes our everyday world seem a little more special.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Heating the Homestead

Do you ever get tired of being cold in the winter? Don't you just love walking into a warm cozy house when it's freezing outside? One of our main goals since we moved here was to have a renewable heat source. We have used electric heaters for the most part and they worked ok but we really wanted wood heat. Last weekend we finally got a wood heater installed.

A month or so ago I bought a military tent stove called the M-1941. This stove is a Type I and II stove which means it can use liquid, coal or wood fuel. Ours only came with the parts to use liquid fuel so if we wanted to use it for wood we had to improvise. The stove came with chimney pipe but it is 4 inches in diameter. We wanted to put it through the wall and it was next to impossible to find 4 inch elbows that didn't cost a fortune. So, we got an increaser so we could go from 4 inch to 6 inch pipe. This actually worked very well and makes it a lot easier to get the pipe now that we are using a standard size.

If it had come with the parts for burning wood or coal, there would have been a ring that sits inside the heater to hold the wood. Since we did not have that piece we bought a grill that holds the charcoal in a Weber grill. This grill was thicker and sturdier than the one for holding the food. We placed a few bricks in the bottom of the heater with the grill and this worked out well for holding the wood.

It's not going to win any beauty contests but it works great! My husband splits the logs into 4 pieces so they are easier to handle in the heater. We only use two at a time and it puts off more than enough heat for this tiny place! We feel a lot better having this in place now. Not only is it more economical than using the electric heaters but if the power were to go down we would still be nice and warm.

You can see in the picture that it has a little rust on it from being stored outside for a short time. We may paint it later with some heat resistant paint just to make it look a little better. You can also see the increaser that we ordered so that we could use the 6 inch pipe which we vented through the wall.

One day when we get the house built, we will probably leave this heater in the shed. Like I said, it's functional but not very pretty and we will probably end up using the shed as a workshop, guesthouse, or whatever seems appropriate at the time. I am actually thinking of putting in rocket mass heaters to heat the house. They are very energy efficient and use very little wood to produce a lot of heat.

When you live in the country it is important that you be able to take care of yourself. This is just another step on our path to becoming more self sufficient.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The More Things Change

I watched the movie Lincoln tonight. The movie is about Lincoln's struggle to get the 13th Amendment passed. This was a time of great struggle for our country. The Civil War had torn the country apart and he was given the seemingly insurmountable task of bringing the country back together, much less setting an entire people free. There were men in Washington who truly were trying to do the right thing. Despite what we see today, it wasn't always full of deceit and treachery.

Today, we understand how important it was to abolish slavery. But then as now, it was a struggle to get anything accomplished. Most Democrats were against it. Most Republicans were for it. They yelled at and insulted each other but without the benefit of cameras everywhere and Twitter feeds. At the beginning of the movie Secretary of State Seward says to Lincoln about the House, "It is the same nest of talentless hicks and hacks". I think he was right then and it certainly applies now.

I am proud to be an American. I am proud of what our country has accomplished but I am not proud of what our country has become. Our leaders think we are here to serve them and not the other way around. They tell us what we want to hear to get elected and then carry out their own agendas and only accomplish a few of the things they promised to placate their constituency. We as a people no longer think for ourselves. To many people have developed the mind set that they are "owed" something. To many Americans don't want to work for anything. We want it now and we want it subsidized. That has become the American Way.

We are no longer a country of hard working, independent thinking people. We have become a country that expects to be taken care of. We don't know where our food comes from, nor do we care. All we care about it getting the latest and greatest phone or tablet. Freedom of speech? Who cares about that so long as I can tweet what I had for lunch. Which, by the way, was bought with food stamps.

Our liberties are being chipped away little by little. The people that we have elected to be in power are not there to serve us. They are there to put their collective boot on the throats of Americans and so many of us applaud them when they do not realizing that if we weren't the intended target today, we will be tomorrow. The current administration is doing everything possible to make us miserable. So why do we put up with it? Because we have been conditioned to think that we can no longer take care of ourselves. You don't know how to manage your own healthcare. Let us do that for you. You don't know how to teach your children. Let us do that for you. You don't have to work. There are plenty of people out there to that for you.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against people getting assistance that need it but I have seen way to many people work the system instead of getting off their duff and learning how to actually take care of themselves. Our government is broken and in serious need of repair. We cannot expect those that are in Washington to fix anything. They are part of the problem. We have to be the ones to fix it. Our politicians are not what make this country great, we are.

If we get through this latest manufactured crisis in Washington, don't think it is the last. If our economy doesn't fail now, one day it will. The Patriots of this country, the people who truly care about what we become, must be ready to pick up the pieces. We can be a great country again but not without work, community, and determination.

Forgive me for rambling and no, I'm not crazy. I'm angry. I'm concerned. And most of all, I want a better world for my family. I'm willing to work for it. Are you?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Homesteading Lessons

We have been homesteading now for 3 years and we have learned a lot. Often, the lessons learned have a good bit of humor associated with them. So, I created a list of some of the things that we have learned over the last few years and thought I would share them with you. I'm sure I will add to this list in the future but in the meantime enjoy!

1. You will never have enough money.

2. Don't quit your day job (See #1)

3. When your city friends suggest you go to the gym with them, you laugh.

4. As a female homesteader, you never grow tired of the look on a man's face as you unload 300     pounds of feed from your yourself.

5. Wildflowers are no longer a nuisance in your yard. They are a centerpiece.

6. You will never look at store bought eggs the same way again.

7. When a poultry truck passes you on the highway you have an insane desire to make the truck stop, jump on top of the truck releasing all of the chickens and yell "Freedom!"

8. The tractor supply store is now your favorite place to shop.

9. Your dress shoes are slowly being replaced by various work boots, and you like it.

10. You no longer read Cosmo or Vogue. Instead you read Countryside and various livestock magazines.

11. The sight of an antique tractor excites you.

12. You begin to wonder, do animals mimic our behavior or do we mimic theirs?

13. You begin to have more meaningful conversations with your livestock than you do with people.

14. You now look at city dwellers as "those people".

15. Openly carrying a gun on your property no longer seems odd to you.

16. Because you live on a dirt road you begin to carry a broom in your car just so you can see out the back window.

17. Your car is cleanest when you have heavy rains.

18. If you are afraid of spiders, snakes, bees, and anything creepy crawly in general, well, you'll get over it.

19. Just because it is cute and fuzzy does not mean it belongs underneath your house.

20. Mice like to travel in cars as well as live in your house. Keep mouse traps handy.

Monday, June 3, 2013

When it rains...

You get tornadoes. Sometimes you get a lot of them. I have lived in Oklahoma for a total of 11 years and I have to admit the last couple of weeks have been trying. Now don't get me wrong, I love living here and storm season can be exciting but I like it much better from a distance. We were fortunate and were not hit by any of the tornadoes but we did have some close calls. 

On Sunday the 19th a tornado was headed for our area so we packed up the bug out bags and headed down the road to our neighbor who has a storm shelter. The next day, the day Moore was hit by the EF5, we had to make a run for the shelter again. I had hoped the worst was over but unfortunately we had another week of severe weather. Friday Oklahoma City and El Reno took the brunt of those storms and to add insult to injury we had flooding after that. All we need now is an eathquake. I'd better not say anything because knowing my luck we'll have one!

After the F5 many people were asking the question, why would anyone want to live where you can have such powerful storms? Why doesn't everyone have storm shelters or basements? Why were the kids in school if we knew there was a chance for severe weather? Well, I will give you the answer to those questions as well as my own reasons for living here.

First, let's look at why more people don't have some sort of storm shelter. To put in an in ground shelter costs about $3, 000. An above ground safe room costs about $5, 000. Most homes in Oklahoma don't have basements simply because it can add considerably to the cost of a house. In many cases you need to have someone who knows how to properly build a basement so you don't have leakage problems as well as other issues. Because our frost line is only about 18 inches deep, we don't have to dig that deep to put in a foundation for a house. Because of the added cost to dig deeper to put in a basement, it just doesn't make a lot of financial sense for many people to add that to their house plan. For many people, the cost of a shelter is simply too expensive and so they have to do without.

Why were the kids in school? Because it was a school day and it's just stupid to think we are going to stop everything every time there is the threat of severe weather. If we did that then no one would leave their homes from April through May. Now I will admit that a lot of businesses closed early Friday because of the threat of severe weather but that is unusual.

Now, why do people live here? Well, why do you live where you live? Because you were born there? Because it's home? Because your family is there? You like your job? You like the climate? There are numerous reasons why we live anywhere but it usually comes down to one thing. Because you like it there. Believe it or not, most people really like living here. We have seasons, it's pretty country, and the people are nice. The tornadoes are just a part of life and you learn to deal with them.
Why do I live here? Well, I wasn't born here. I chose to live here. I love the open country, the people are great, and this is a state that believes in our rights. This state was founded by people who were looking for opportunities, who weren't afraid to take on a challenge, and knew that they couldn't count on anyone to come to their rescue except for themselves and their neighbors. After the F5 tornado we were flooded with reporters who were amazed at how strong the people were and how people were pouring out of the woodwork to help. They call it the Oklahoma Standard, we call it being a good neighbor. By the time FEMA got here and the Red Cross could get established, churches and other groups were already setting up shelters and taking donations. We don't wait on the government to come in and rescue us. When we see something needs to be done, we do it, especially in a crisis. After the Red Cross got the shelters set up the comment was made on TV that they were a little surprised that there weren't more people staying in them. I wasn't.  I had heard that same statement by a Red Cross volunteer after the May 3, 1999 tornado. People are taken in by friends, family, and sometimes even strangers. There are disasters no matter where you live so don't be so judgemental because you don't like our brand of disaster.

So why do I live here? Because I like it here. We may not be as sophisticated as folks out on the east coast, and we may not be as liberal as folks out on the west coast but you know what? We've got some pretty good folks right here and if you get scared by a little wind and rain, well maybe we don't want you anyway.  

I won't make any apologies for making anyone mad. I was more than a little irritated by all the armchair quarter backing going on after the storm by people who have never even been here. Oklahoma is a good state with good people so to all of the nay sayers I'll just tell you in the polite Southern way...kiss my grits. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013


One of our long awaited projects if finally done! Last weekend we finally got our greenhouse up. This isn't what I originally had in mind but it was more affordable and it will work for the short term. The greenhouse is 11'x15'. We were going to make it 12 feet wide but my husband decided he wanted more bow to the arches to allow for water runoff. It took him about a day to build the ends for the greenhouse.Overall it took about 2 days to build.

We hammered pieces of rebar into the ground to hold the ribs in place.

I helped him to stretch the plastic over the end pieces. This is 6 mm UV resistant greenhouse plastic that I ordered online. The company I ordered it from has the plastic in a couple of different widths and will cut it to whatever length you specify. The plastic we ordered was 24' wide.

This is a picture of one of the completed end pieces. Let me just say that trying to move these things into place on a windy day proved interesting.

Now that the ends were in place, all we had to do was pull the plastic over the body of the greenhouse. It wasn't too hard and the wind actually helped by picking it up so we could pull it over the top.

And here is the completed project. To anchor the sides, we rolled 2x4's in the plastic and then placed the concrete blocks on them. We used 3/4" pipe for the ribs and a 2" pipe along the top of the ribs to add stability. With the plastic simply being rolled, we can roll up the sides if needed for ventilation. If you look closely, you'll notice there are dark white spots along the first arch. Those are greenhouse clips that we used to hold the plastic to the frame.

As you can see, this is a picture of the inside of the greenhouse. We haven't built a door yet so we simply cut the plastic so we can get in and out. The plan is to cut off the plastic and use it to stretch across the door. We used 2x4's that were cut in half to brace the ribs. We used zip ties to help hold them in place and then they were screwed to the plastic pipe. On either side of the door are 8' T posts that give additional stability to the ends.

Overall we are very pleased with it. We have moved everything inside that we need to make the soil cubes. We have a small table that we will be using until my husband can build a larger one. Now we can finally get started on our seeds! This fall we will add a bed inside that we can use to grow some things in over the winter. Even though we didn't have this done as early as I would have liked, at least I know I can look forward to getting my plants started a lot earlier next year!

Monday, February 11, 2013


Recently I talked about the 13 Skills challenge set out by Jack Spirko on The Survival Podcast. One of the Skills I set for myself was to learn about firearms. Well today I took a step toward completing that goal by taking a gun class with my husband.

He is more familiar with guns than I am but his dad never taught him how to clean a gun. He also just wanted to increase his basic knowledge. I came across a guy through our local survivalist store that teaches conceal carry classes, private instruction etc. He was kind enough to do a class with just me and my husband for about 2 1/2 hours. Overall I have to say it was really helpful. We went over gun safety and how to clean the guns as well as some other tidbits of information. Our next goal is to get our gun permits so that we can carry handguns. Oklahoma is now an open carry state so it's no longer called a conceal carry permit.

Now I just need to get to work on all of the other skills I've set for myself!