Friday, March 22, 2013

10 Ways To Become Self-Sufficient

Becoming self-sufficient is more important than ever right now. Everything has gone up in the grocery stores. Gas is expensive and driving very far from home to get the best deals is not always good to do. There are ways to overcome that and I will share some of my ideas here. Being self-sufficient provides food and supplies in bad economic times, as well as during storms, emergencies, illnesses and loss of income.

1. Grow a Garden.

The garden has been a life saver for us. Growing a garden is not that hard and will give you plenty of food. A small yard can easily be made into a garden. You don't really need fancy equipment to get started. Even a container garden can add to your grocery supply significantly.  A package of seeds will explain how to plant and care for them.

Working together in a garden can become a family activity. It is good for children to learn to garden! It is a skill that may feed them and their families in the future. Being outside on a nice day, enjoying nature while working in your garden is a good way to get the benefits of the fresh air and sunshine. Nothing is more satisfying than a day spent producing your own food in your own garden!

2. Can Foods

Producing a lot of extra food in your garden is perfect for preserving foods for the future. All those tomatoes can easily be canned. Or made into the various tomato products you purchase in the store, such as tomato sauces, juice, paste, ketchup, salsa, whole and diced, etc. Whatever you buy, you can make with your own fresh produce.

Canning equipment can be purchased used. Buy a canning book and learn the basics. There is a difference between a pressure Canner and a pressure Cooker . Make sure you use the right one! Some foods have to be pressure canned and some can be water bath canned. This is another rule that cannot be broken or you will risk your family's life.

3. Dehydrate Foods

Dehydrating or drying foods is another method of preserving foods. It is a very healthy way to keep the foods for future use. There are many different types of dehydrators available for sale. If you can find a used one for sale, that is a good way to get started. There are many articles and books available teaching how to build a solar dehydrator. That way you can use the sun to preserve the foods.

Make sure that you store the dried foods safely so they do not mold. Using canning jars for storage is the method I like best. When you use the foods you have grown, you know that nothing bad has been added in the process.

4. Buy In Bulk

Buying in bulk is another way to build up a supply of food for the future. Buy when foods are on sale or plentiful in season. The cost is way less. I always buy in bulk the foods I can't or don't grow or raise. Then I can or dehydrate those foods for the future. Building up a supply of food for the winter is the way it was done for centuries. Even the wild critters do that.

When you see meat on sale or offered by a local meat producer, purchase a quanity. Bring it home and can, dehydrate or freeze it. It can also be made into various dishes, like soups, stews, casseroles, main or side dishes. That gives you fast foods that are good for you and have no garbage in them during the processing.

5. Cook From Scratch

Cooking from scratch is not complicated. So many people will admit they do not know how to cook. Why not? Can they read? Don't they eat? If you know how to do some simple processes, cooking from scratch becomes second nature. Buy a good cookbook and just follow the directions. There are many videos available on the internet that show you how to make various recipes. Try some.

Making your own food will really cut the cost! Not only will it be cheaper, but it will healthier and taste good. As you do it more and more, you will not even be tempted to buy processed foods any more. When you do, you will taste the difference immediately!

6. Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies

I use vinegar and baking soda for most cleaning jobs. It works on everything and will even clear a clogged drain. There are recipes all over the internet for makeing your onw cleaning supplies. One thing I do not make is my dish detergent. The reason is that I use Dawn, and Dawn can be used on more than dishes. It is also a main ingredient in various other cleaning supplies or jobs.

This is my recipe for laundry detergent. It can be adjusted and other products substituted after you have made it a few times.

1/3 bar Fels Naptha soap, grated
1/2 cup Borax
1/2 cup Washing Soda

Melt and dissolve grated Fels Naptha soap in 2 cups of water in a pot on the stove on medium heat (Be sure to use an old pot for this. Reserve this pot for this purpose from now on.). Stir in the Borax and Washing soda till it gets kind of sloppy and thick. Pour it into a bucket that has a lid and add enough water to make about 2 gallons. Stir it until it is well mixed. It can be used right away or set overnight to thicken. It gets thick and may not look pleasant, but it works great. Use about 1/2 cup per load. Use more if your laundry is really dirty or your washer is really large.

If it is not getting your laundry really clean, try increasing the Borax. Instead of bleach try using Hydrogen Peroxide. Instead of fabric softener, use plain old vinegar, 1/2 cup in the rinse water. You can use homemade soap for the Fels Naptha, or any type of soap. I have used liquid Ivory soap in this recipe many times.

7. Make Personal Care Supplies

Many people have taken up soap making, but what about shampoo and other personal care items? There are many wild plants that can be added to your own products. Just takes some research. I wrote a blog post about making my own shampoo, using a recipe I had found in this post, Homemade Shampoo.You can find thousands of recipes and instructions on the internet for making every personal care item you purchase. You don't have to make all of them, but if you at least make some of them, it will save you money. In fact, once you start making your own, you probably won't like the store bought ones after that.

8. Buy Second Hand First

I shop regularly in thrift stores. In my kitchen, I cook with cast iron pans and skillets exclusively. My whole collection, which is quite impressive, was purchased in thrift and second hand stores. Some for as little as a dollar! Whatever you need can be found at good prices or even free if you look. It is a good way to recycle what someone else is getting rid of.

9. Generate Electric From Sunshine!

We have lived off-the-grid going on fourteen years now. Everybody can generate at least a little power by having a small stand alone system. One or two solar panels, of at least 50 watts each, a small charge controller, two golf cart or marine batteries, and an automotive inverter can power up a part of your household electric.

Hook up your lights, televison, stereo and computers to your small system. That will cut your electric bill a bit. When there is a power outage, these items will stay powered and running. It is not that hard to do and it will save you money. Try it and see. The cost of the solar panels and related equipment have gone down a lot since we started living with our own system.

10. Share With Others

Build a network of friends who you can share with. If you are going shopping, go with a couple of friends and you can split the gas for the trip. If you need to buy a piece of equipment, split the cost of it with a couple of friends. Another way is to share equipment you already own, but take turns using each other's things.

Share the work load too. If  you have a lot of tomatoes to can, do it together and share the product. Then go to another's house and can whatever they have coming in. If you each grow different items and you do the picking and processing together, you should be able to put up a lot more food in a shorter period of time. Besides doing it together makes the jobs or trips go faster and be more fun.

Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013  Kathleen G. Lupole

Monday, March 18, 2013

Feeling Lucky With Sales & The Lottery

Georgie Girl & Nikita sharing a drink!

I have not been writing as regular as I should on this blog. My husband and I started listing our products into a new ProStore on Amazon. Our sales on our two websites have not been very good in recent months. I had really given up on them. My husband though, did not want to give up. He kept trying, but still, there was not enough sales to count on. Since I had been selling my eBooks in the kindle shop on Amazon, I thought that maybe we would do better if we had all our strings in their catalog. So, why not open a ProStore there for our guitar strings? What would it hurt?

Well, it didn't hurt anything! Our inventory is selling out. I need to put together a new order to get the strings that are selling. We have had more sales in the last thirty days then we have ever had on our own two sites. Man, I love Amazon! I no sooner list a set of strings, then Amazon is sending me a notification of sale in my inbox.

Today, is a month ago that our little girl, Nikita passed away. I keep wondering if a dog does have the power to help you after they die? Maybe God sent them here to us to teach us something. To teach us how to be happy, generous and loving. No matter what we said or did, she loved us with all her heart. She was a really good girl and the worst thing she ever did was to scarf up the cat food in the kitchen at night, after I went to bed.

The reason I mention that is that for some reason, our luck is changing here. In fact, it has become so good that I sold my parents home to a man who didn't even try to get me to lower my price or talk me into owner financing it. Mainly because he has the money! The other reason I think our luck has changed is that my husband won the MegaMillions last week! Well, he didn't win the big jackpot........that is for next time, he won $150. and that has NEVER happened before!

Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013  Kathleen G. Lupole

Friday, March 15, 2013

Do Not Judge By Feedback Or Reviews On Amazon Or eBay

I saw a perfect example of how a buyer can affect a good product by not knowing the proper way to leave a review or a feedback on Amazon. This buyer purchased a product and when it arrived, one of the glass jars were broke. She blamed it on the seller. BUT she left a bad review of the product on Amazon! Instead of going to her account, and leaving feedback for the seller! Why do they do that? Drives me crazy, besides not being fair or right. Her review was pointless, especially since there could be thousands of sellers, selling that same product at any time on Amazon.  Though if I was her, I'd have contacted the seller first, and tell her what happened, before leaving bad feedback.

So many buyers leave bad feedback without giving a seller a chance to make it right. Not only on Amazon, but on eBay too. We had an incident lately involving poor customer service in the tire department of  Walmart. We were ready to stop shopping there. After contacting their Facebook page, their manager handled it to our satisfaction. Because we gave them a chance to make it right. How many people actually do that?

The trouble is that it is easy for a buyer to leave bad reviews or bad feedback with the click of a mouse. They don't have to confront the seller face to face. That is the way some people like it. Giving bad reviews and trying to hurt a seller or a product makes them have a good day. Often they have bought something they did not know how to use or understand.  I saw on the eBay Buyer Discussion board where some buyers were discussing how soon they could leave negative feedback. They were looking forward to it!

So my request is to please take leaving feedback or reviews seriously. It is your seller's way to make a living. They don't mean to send you a broken product anymore than you wanted to buy one. I am not saying that they never deserve bad feedback or a bad review, but please use extreme caution when dishing it out. Think of how you would like to be treated if you sent a product that was broken in transit.

When I shop on Amazon or eBay, I don't usually go by the feedback or reviews. Most of the time, I find they are not true. Or that the person writing it, was a new buyer, or did not know what they were buying and what it was used for. Most of the bad feedback on eBay comes from new buyers. Take that into consideration when you are making a purchase.

Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013  Kathleen G. Lupole

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Spring Plans For Our Homestead

A few days ago at Peaceful Forest

Things are looking up for us, in this past week. A very good week, I must say! Last week I FINALLY got a buyer for my parents' home. Not only that, but the buyer is a local business man and will not turn their home into a dumpy looking place. That was one thing I was dreading since I do have sentimental feelings for their property. Hopefully, that closing will take place in the next couple of weeks or so. Depends on how fast the lawyers get their work done.

Last summer

The other thing that I am very happy about is that our guitar strings are finally selling! And selling good! We opened a ProStore on Amazon and it has made the difference. Every day we have sales now. I love listing the products and have them sell while I am still working on adding more. It has made my husband a very happy man!

Last Saturday

I am also selling on eBay. Just auctions. Every month they give you that deal of 50 free auctions. You only pay fees if they sell. I like that. So every month I try to list at least 50. Only now I am out of things to sell. If I list something that doesn't sell the first time, I will relist it. If it doesn't sell the next time, in the box to the thrift store it goes! I have an idea of what to sell. So when the weather gets warmer, we will be making a trip to our local thrift stores and yard sales for more products. The kind that sell, of course!

Winter 2013

My eBooks are still selling pretty good on Amazon in their Kindle Shop. I am pretty happy with that. I have been working on re-editing those books though. Maybe have them professionally edited and formatted after I finish. I will add about 40 more pages to them. Some pictures too. I am also working on another one that is not nearly done yet.

Summer 2012

For the most part, I am looking forward to the spring and being able to start my seeds for my garden. I am hoping all goes through with my parents' home being sold with no problems. My son will be moving near his friends into his own place. Then we can get back to our life. Still missing my Nikita, but am able to go on and focus on other things for now. No more dogs for me. Hurts too much when their short life is over. I am planning on spending some time with my horses this year. Making some changes in the barn to give them more room, and get that stall for Tawny. Lots of plans for our house, but I will write about that later.

Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013  Kathleen G. Lupole

Monday, March 11, 2013

Time Passes At Peaceful Forest Homestead

Our backyard!

Today, was three weeks ago that my little girl, Nikita passed away. It is also seven months ago today, that my father passed away. Both are missed and thought of every day. My father of course, did not live with me. When he was in the hospital dying, I did not have the time to properly grieve for him. I was the one making all the decisions for him and trying to do the right thing by him. My niece was causing me so many problems, as was her boyfriend too. So I spent my energy on senseless problems. Instead of what mattered.

The horses playing in the snow!

Animals basically live their life only focused on today. Not what might happen tomorrow, next week, next month or next year. Maybe they are living for the moment or maybe not? We see the birds planning ahead when they first arrive back to our home in the spring. They are expected any day. They will rest those first few days back. Often we spot the first robins resting in the tree tops around our homestead. Singing their familiar song, which is what usually alerts us to the fact that they are back home. Soon they are onto family planning and building nests.

Hobo hanging out last summer in a planter!

Our cats here live the way they want. They come and go all day long. In and out, in and out. Push me toward their food dish, even if it isn't empty, which it never is. Get on a lap if possible. Sleep all day. Go outside if they feel like it. If it is cold, they might go out to go potty and then come back in. Or they can use the indoor litter box if they so choose, which Callie does. Their whole world is right here. They are not wanderers and stay close here. They are all older cats now, Callie and Patches are both 13 this year. Hobo is younger, but I am not sure exactly what her age is.

My husband on Dark Shadow, in 2003. Nikita was never far behind!

Just like a garden, our life passes by too. It is important to pay attention to each and every member of your family. Including your precious pets. Their lives are so short. Take lots of pictures and tell everyone what you want them to know. I have no regrets there. Nikita spent almost every hour of her day with me. I talked to her all the time. She understood me perfectly. My husband was "her" person. She loved him so much and showed him constantly, just how much. He, and my son, both. gave her a lot of attention. Maybe she was an "old lady" in dog years, but she was dearly loved and knew it. Now life goes on..........

Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013  Kathleen G. Lupole

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Logs For Cutting Into Firewood

Logging Truck arrived this morning!

Our second load of logs to cut into firewood arrived this morning. The horses seemed more interested this time than before. Probably because it was a pleasant morning and they were outside and ready for some sort of distraction.

Close up view of the sizes!

It is lucky for us, that my husband has two different sizes of chainsaws. As you can see the logs were assorted sizes. Wood is precious this year. All the loggers who sell it say they are selling out and have to get more. Since spring is right around the corner, this load should last us, right into December. Depends on the weather.

Moving to firewood spot for unloading!

Heating with wood is our only heating supply here. So running out of wood is not an option. This is the first year we have purchased firewood. The best way to purchase it is buying the logs and cutting and splitting them yourself. Yeah, its hard work, but better than paying someone else to do it for you!

Moving the logs!

The logger moves the logs quite easily with his equipment!

Ready for cutting and splitting!

Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013  Kathleen G. Lupole

Monday, March 04, 2013

My Wood Cookstove

Cooking & Heating With Our Cookstove

My wood cook stove was bought in an antique shop in 1997. We put it on layaway and paid on it every week until we paid it off and could bring it home. Home at that time was a house we rented that was on a big farm that was not farmed any longer and hadn't been for a long time. Our house was a little ranch house that the original owners had built for their hired help. We could have wood stoves there and that is where I learned how to use them. First we had a wood heating stove and I liked that fine. But my heart was set on a wood cook stove once I saw one.

Fire in the wood cook stove!

 You may not realize how many people really love wood cook stoves, or how many people actually OWN one and cook on it! Not just homesteaders either! Not only for the independence they give as far as cooking and heating if you have a power outage, but during the winter a wood cook stove can help cut your electric and fuel bill down. I love cooking on mine because you can have many pans of food cooking at the same time. Just moving them around, toward or on the fire and away from the fire. During the day, you can set a pot of something on the back burner and let it simmer all day. Of course, everyone walks around hungry all day, just smelling whatever is cooking.

Straight Pipe makes it easy to clean

Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013  Kathleen G. Lupole
Updated 2016

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Winter Time At Peaceful Forest

Hobo doing her share of the wood work!

Winter is supposed to be winding down. It is still cold. We still have snow and keep getting more.It has been a very hard winter here at our house. The biggest hardship was the lost of Nikita. I don't think I will ever feel the same. I have had a hard time trying to write my blogs due to her passing. I have lost my feelings of happiness. Not only did I lose my father six months ago, but my Nikita, who meant the world to me. If it was up to me, I'd move from here. Sometimes it is easier when you are in a new environment and doing things differently than you did before.

During a whiteout, Tawny is rolling!

We went through our big load of logs and are waiting for another load that we should get next week. This was the first year that we had to purchase our wood. Cutting trees down gets to be too labor intensive as you get older. I am looking to change things so our life will be easier. I mean, we do need to have some time in our life that is more enjoyable and not just hard work.

Cook stove wood!

I have been trying so hard to sell my father's home. It is a trailer with an addition and was not in the best condition. But it sets on a pretty piece of land that someone could make into a cute little homestead. He grew a really big garden there and it has berry bushes and apple trees. I am keeping my fingers crossed that someone will buy it. I cannot afford to keep it going. And I cannot live there myself.

What is that??? Oh my, SUNSHINE!

Spring is right around the corner, and I start my seeds on April first. So I am eagerly awaiting that day. I have plenty of seeds ready to plant. My brother works at a seed factory now and he shared a lot of seeds with me. We should both have plenty of food growing this year. My father would be proud!

Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013  Kathleen G. Lupole