Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

Too Much Work? February 23, 2013

It seems strange to me to hear the opinions of others concerning our lifestyle. As early as in the book of Genesis in the Bible, Adam and Eve were instructed that their lives would require hard work. It was after they were taken out of the Garden of Eden. The Lord made it known to them that it would be by the sweat of their brow that their crops would grow. How often do we read in scripture about the hard work the people had to do in order to provide for their families? The stories of the women having to glean in the fields for grain to make their bread or the men who worked in the fields or fish with nets are abundant. The Apostle Paul even goes so far as to say in 1 Thessalonians 3:7-10 “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model to you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’”

In today’s society, we have drawn away from that attitude more and more. While there are many who are physically unable to do hard work, there is always something that can be done. Unfortunately, it is in our human nature to be lazy and complacent. It is much easier to be taken care of than to work. We all have those moments in our lives. In some areas it is far easier to take advantage of modern technology. The danger in this is that here we are today with a generation of young adults who haven’t a clue how to live without modern conveniences. Is it any wonder that when a storm knocks the power out, many families freak out? It was a shock to find out a couple of years ago that some people actually believe it is not legal to be off-grid. People are so accustomed to having electricity and all the modern conveniences that they find it too strange to think some would choose to live without it.

Suddenly, we find ourselves where we are today, a nation with serious economic issues. People are unemployed or under-employed. Record numbers of people are receiving government aid through food stamps of other means. The problem lies in the fact that there are many receiving these “entitlements” that feel it is their right to receive them. My question is this; what will happen when the nation runs out of tax money to pay for it? It has happened in other nations? What makes people believe it cannot happen here?

I have said it many times in the past, but I say it again. My husband and I do not feel that ALL people should live as off-grid as we choose to do. It really isn’t for everyone. If readers are honest however, they will admit that there are things that they can implement in their own homes to make their lives just a bit easier. Whether it be to plant a small garden in their yard or in containers on their balcony, work towards becoming debt-free, or simply being more cautious in their spending.

We often are asked how we manage on as little as we do financially. The answer is simple. We make it work. It doesn’t matter how much or little the pay is, we find a way to make the money stretch as far as possible. Being in the truck driving industry, the pay is dependent upon how many miles my husband drives. Some weeks the pay is much better than others. We have literally had a week when the truck broke down and our paycheck was in the negative due to the deductions being more than his pay that week. Then we have a paycheck come along that is very good. We learned to stock up when pay is good in preparation for the times when pay is low. It is a life of feast or famine. We are blessed in that my husband works for a company and not an owner/operator leasing to a company for his loads. A truck payment for the semi and all the permits, etc., would be hard financially devastating if we also had to make repairs to the truck as well as pay for fuel. As a company driver, the company takes care of all of those expenses.

The easy answer to how we make our income work is this. We have to work to save money. If I want to save money on the cost of doing laundry, I have to wash it by hand. This alone saves us $20 per week when compared to doing laundry at a Laundromat in town. In winter months, we use a Laundromat but in the warmer months, the laundry is done at home on a scrub board. I actually enjoy those times. I find it very peaceful and relaxing.

If we want to cut our food costs, we have to grow our own food. If unable to grow your own, you can cut costs by being less fancy in your cooking and using less processed foods. Using the raw or basic ingredients can save you a bundle in expenses. A loaf of bread that costs $2 at the store would only cost about 68 cents to make at home. On average, not including meat, you can cut your grocery expense down to about ¼ of your monthly bill if you stop buying the store versions of your favorite packaged foods. In spite of rising food costs, I am still managing to spend under $200 per month to feed our family of 4. We eat a well-balanced vegetarian diet most of the time, with a few meat meals scattered throughout the month.

For cutting costs in utilities, I am very frugal even with our water usage. Not only is this great for our environment, but it helps keep our monthly bills down. We live in a drought area. Last year, the gardens did very poorly due to the heat and drought. So, this year, I am planning a “drought garden” instead of a traditional one. A drought garden is one in which you plant vegetables and herbs that are drought resistant. Root crops are great for this! They require less water than things like green beans or tomatoes. There are varieties of fruit that are drought and heat resistant also. Many are heirloom varieties that are open pollinated (not GMO) and survive well in our region. I am planning 2 plantings of leafy greens. The first will be in early spring and the second will take place in late summer or early autumn. This will give us a nice supply of salads during the cooler months. Instead of growing celery, I am planting leaf celery. This herb tastes like celery but is far easier to grow and the leaves can be dried for winter use.

Canning may seem pricey when a person first starts, but when you remember that the jars are reusable, canning is far less expensive than buying the tins of vegetables & fruit at the store. Often, I find old canning jars at yard sales or secondhand shops. After the initial investment into buying jars, you only have to replace the flat lids that are used to seal the jars. There is a company called “Tattler” that makes the old fashioned resealable lids. These cost more than the single use lids, but are a onetime purchase. The time spent growing (or purchasing from a farmer’s market) and home canning your harvest can save your family $1,000s of dollars over a year’s time. It all depends on the amount of food you grow and preserve.

As with any other aspect of our lifestyle, the amount of work we are willing to do has a great influence in the amount of expense we have each month. The amount of work we choose to do allows us to live comfortably without the use of financial assistance or food stamps. It can be done. The question is whether others are willing to put forth the effort needed to do it. Whether it is just a little change here and a little change there, you can make a difference in your family’s spending. It is not something beyond anyone’s ability. The question comes down to how serious people are about wanting to change their spending habits and have the ability to live on less. It is only a nice idea that they would like to consider or is it something that they truly want to work towards?

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Colonial to Depression Era Cooking December 15, 2012

Filed under: gardening,homesteading,old fashioned,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 4:28 am

Have you ever taken a look online or in old cookbooks to see what type of foods people ate during the period between the Colonial days and the Great Depression era? The difference from the way we eat today is amazing. The families focused there diet on 3 primary factors: what was in season, what was easily obtained through hunting and fishing, and what could be easily stored.

I have been looking at these recipes and have come to the realization that they are just as sound today as they were back then. Families are spoiled today. There is such a variety that we feel bored with having to limit our choices. Should we continue to allow that attitude?

I am convinced that the generations before us had it right. They grew their produce, hunted, fished and raised their own meat, gathered berries and nuts from local sources, raised their own dairy cows to give them their milk, butter and cheese. They raised poultry for eggs and meat. They were so far ahead of most people today in their lifestyle. Today, society has become dependent on grocery stores and other resources for food. Each year, there are news stories of food recalls due to health issues. So much of this can be avoided by raising your own. If you live in a city, there are options. You can raise a small patio garden in containers. If you know someone who lives in a more rural area near you, maybe they would allow you to share in their garden if you help with the work in tending it. Find a trusted local farm to purchase produce from. The options are there for anyone willing to try.

The best option for those outside of a city is to utilize your resources and raise a garden of your own. I have been looking through and preparing my seed order from Baker’s Creek Seed Company in Missouri. I love buying seed from them. It is all open pollinated and they do not sell anything that is GMO.

By January, I hope to have the order placed so that we have plenty of time to prepare. I like to start the seeds ahead of time and transplant as much as possible to shorten the growing time in the ground. With drought conditions and hot temperatures, that is important to having a successful garden. In February I will begin starting to grow sweet potato slips. They should be ready to put into the ground by late April after the frost danger has passed.

I am looking forward to our garden. It will be our first year with a garden similar to what earlier generations may have had.

 

Change in Garden Plans May 29, 2012

Filed under: gardening,homesteading — ourprairiehome @ 6:33 pm

Well, the garden didn’t get fully prepped as planned, so I am gearing up for plan B. In the City, about 80 miles from home, there is a very large Farmer’s Market. I am planning to save up for going there to buy the produce we need for canning. Not the best arrangement, but the best we can do at this point. It was a series of events that prevented the garden going in as planned. The biggest hurdle being the switch from very rainy to the temps being too hot for many of the garden plants. One thing that you learn quickly is to always have a back-up plan or two in the wings.

We do have a small garden planted now. Some tomatoes, melons, and squash. Our family loves popcorn, so are growing that also. Summer squash is very easy to plant anytime during the summer. Heat doesn’t seem to affect it as much. Winter squash does well as long as it is planted before the end of June. Our autumns are mild enough that we can be harvesting squash as late as Thanksgiving most years. The only crop that we missed out on were the leafy greens, lettuce, cabbage, green beans, and peas which need cooler temps to grow well. I still have plenty of time to plant root crops and the winter squash type of plants. I will do those as I am able.

 

Cherry Tomatoes in a Hanging Planter April 26, 2012

Filed under: gardening,green living,homesteading,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 6:09 pm

We love the small cherry or grape tomatoes.  In summer, they are used often for snacking as well as in salads.  There are the “upside down” planters made for tomatoes that you can find in the stores, but here is the low cost way that I do it.

  Materials Needed:

hanging planter with natural mesh lining

pony pack of 6 cherry tomato plants

potting mix

 

Directions:

To make the planter, I first made a inch long tear in the bottom of the planter and 5 more spaced evenly around the sides.  Gently push the root ball of the little plants through each hole from the outside towards the inside of the planter “bowl.”    I pulled the roots and stems through until the first set of leaves was touching the outside of the planter.  This will result in all that stem becoming part of the plant’s root system.

After arranging all 6 plants through the holes, I filled the planter bowl with potting mix.  Give the plants a good watering and hang in a sunny location on your porch.  I placed ours under the eaves on the south side of our porch which gets a lot of light in the summer.

Hanging the cherry tomatoes in a planter like this is very easy and far less expensive than using the store bought versions.  The wire frame of the planter can be reused each year, with only the liner being replaced as necessary.

Trying this method can give even the urban dwellers an option on how to grow fresh tomatoes even in an apartment building as long as you have a sunny porch or balcony.

Enjoy!

 

Gardening on the Cheap April 11, 2012

Filed under: gardening,green living,homesteading,old fashioned — ourprairiehome @ 6:07 pm

I am finding that the old ways are often so much smarter than the modern.  Gardening in a good example.  In my Grandm’s generation they rarely bought new seed each year for their gardens.  They saved seeds each year from their garden to use in the next season’s plantings.

I purchase open pollinated organic seeds for my garden.  These seeds are very much like those previous generations used.  We plant only the foods that we eat regularly.  It makes no sense to plant a lot of cabbage, for example, if you only eat it once a month or so.

When I was growing up, we would use or can up for the pantry the harvest all throughout the summer.  The last picking, which is typically the smallest amount, would be allowed to go to seed.  Green beans and peas would fill the pods and be allowed to dry on the plant.  When brown and dry, the pods were picked and shelled to store for next season.  Melon seeds were saved when we ate the melons.  The same was done with tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and many others.

What it boils down to is that once you make that initial organic seed purchase, you can start saving seeds with that first planting and avoid having to buy seeds in the future.

 

 

Garden Idea April 5, 2012

Filed under: gardening,green living,homesteading — ourprairiehome @ 5:59 pm

I am developing a real enjoyment for YouTube.  I found that there is much to learn from that website.  A while back, a friend on Facebook sent me a link to a very unique raised bed garden made from old pallets.

The raised bed garden is entirely made from old pallets that you can often find for free at lumber yards or other locations.  The garden is waist high, yet thedepth of the planting box is adjustable to the depth you need.  Setting them up in a row as they do in the video can make a nice fence line.

I am considering setting up a raised bed garden like that in my back yard where the in ground garden used to be.  It will get full sun and should do well there.  I will start with only a few beds to see how they do.  If all goes well, I will add more each year until I have as many beds as I need for both my vegetables and herbs.