Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

New Blog address April 3, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — ourprairiehome @ 3:32 am

I will now be posting my blog updates at: http://homesteadsimplicity.blogspot.com/

 

Finally Connected April 1, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — ourprairiehome @ 7:42 pm

This week, my Beloved husband left his mobile hotspot for me to use at home.  I finally have affordable internet at home.  That has been one of the glitches with being off the grid.  Most internet servers require electricity.  Yes, there are still the old fashioned dial-up ones out there, but they have one problem.  While the service itself is low priced, the cost of a phone line more than doubled the cost.

We now use the prepay MiFi device from Virgin Mobile.  It costs $50 a month with unlimited usage.  Unlike most mobile devices that shut off your service when you have used up your allotted data each month, this one just slows the data speed.  We love it!

This is exciting to me because now I will have a way to post to the blogs more often.

 

Doing Laundry Off the Grid March 6, 2016

Filed under: green living,homesteading,off grid,Uncategorized — ourprairiehome @ 11:50 pm
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Lately, I have noticed a lot of interest in how to save money when doing laundry. When I mention washing by hand, the instant reaction is “That’s too much work!” Well, I guess it can be if you are not prepared for it. Here are some of the reasons why I think people are reluctant to give it a try.

First, they only wash laundry when it is piled up. If you wait until you have to scale Mt. Wash-more to do your laundry, it can seem overwhelming. I know this from experience. I let it go for just over a week when I had pneumonia one year and was amazed at how daunting a task it had become.

Second, people are spoiled with their machines. I readily admit that in winter, I wash laundry at a laundromat. It is faster to dry that way. I have handwashed laundry in winter months and found that the clothes didn’t dry enough outside on the line. I had to hang the slightly damp clothing in the house near a wood stove to finish drying. In summer though, the laundry actually gets done faster and easier than hauling it 10 miles from home to the laundromat. Once I have a LP gas dryer though, the laundry can be done at home in winter again.

Third, people don’t prepare for the task ahead of time. There is nothing that causes your back to hurt faster than trying to wash laundry by hand in the bathtub. Again, I speak from experience. When I first began doing laundry by hand 7 years ago, I used the bathtub as my wash basin. It served the purpose, but my back sure felt the strain. My knees felt it also as I knelt by the tub to do all that washing!

So, why do I still do laundry by hand? That is easy. I have found a way to do it that works well and is very convenient. It saves me money each month. It also is fun. Whether or not you aspire to doing your laundry by hand or not, it is a great skill to have. You never know when your laundry machines will stop working. What if you have to replace your washing machine and don’t have the funds to do it? What about power outages? You never know when storms will take out the power lines. It happens often from winter storms, tornadoes, or other natural disasters. What about going camping as a family? You may find a time where you need to wash laundry while camping. Having a clothesline and a bit of soap with you can give you the ability to do it. What about something like a SHTF situation? Whether it be a job loss or other economic issue, there is always a chance that something could happen that forces you to tighten your financial belt up a bit. When those times come about, don’t let yourself be caught unprepared. Have a plan to fall back on. Even something as simple as knowing how to do your family’s laundry without the benefit of laundry machines can be a blessing.

In setting up a laundry, you don’t have to get fancy. Honestly? In a SHTF situation, having a 5 gallon bucket, laundry soap, and a clothesline rope is all that you need. Toss in a package or two of clothespins and you are ahead of the game. You quite easily can wash clothing in a 5 gallon bucket, wring the laundry out, refill the bucket with rinse water, then after rinsing, wring the water out of the clothing, and hang out on the rope clothesline. It literally can be that simple in a pinch. If you are thinking about doing laundry by hand on a more regular basis, such as during summer months, to take advantage of the warmth and sun, here are some tips to get you started.

First, have the right equipment. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It just has to be functional for you. I recommend having 2 wash tubs. I started out with a couple of round metal tubs that I bought at Lowes Home Improvement center in their paint department. These worked for a while, but the solder in the bottom seam fell out over time. They also are very easy to develop rust, if not dried out thoroughly. I next tried the deep plastic tubs with rope handles. These worked great. Only problem was that they were very heavy to empty the water out of. I finally found some smaller wash tubs that are easier to empty. They are the type that you often see used for keeping drinks on ice at a picnic or BBQ. These are smaller and work well for me. You can also find metal wash tubs of various sizes at Tractor Supply, Atwoods, or other farm supply stores. The second item that you need is a clothesline or drying rack to hang the laundry on. For years, I have used the clothesline rope. It works very well, but does need to be replaced every few years due to stretching and it wearing out. Many people like to use the vinyl coated wire, but be aware that after a few years, the sun will dry out the vinyl and it will begin flaking off. You can also use the actual clothesline wire, which is made to not rust. It really depends on what your preferences are. In the beginning, the rope would probably be all you need. Some people have a hand-crank wringer, but it really is not a necessity. I have one that I bought at Lehman’s Non-Electric store 6 years ago. It is now showing rust in some areas. It works, but I have to use steel wool on it as regular maintenance to keep it from rusting. Otherwise I may have to paint it. The wringer helps, but honestly, I can wring things out just as well by hand. It is also faster for me to do by hand than to use the wringer.

The next thing you need to do is have the right soap. That may seem like a no-brainer, but I do need to address this one. Many of your laundry soaps produce a lot of suds. This gives the illusion that your clothes are getting cleaner than a low suds variety. If you decide to use a soap with lots of suds, be prepared to do more rinsing than usual. My favorite soap for hand washing laundry is Fels-Naptha. It comes in a bar. Many women use this soap to make their own laundry soap with. When melted down in water and adding to washing soda and borax, the Fels-Naptha makes a very good quality laundry soap that cleans well without causing excessive amounts of suds. If you don’t want to make your own soap or use the Fels-Naptha, look for a store brand that is low suds. Trust me, you will be happy to not have to do the extra rinsing required from having too many soap bubbles in your laundry. In handwashing laundry, I often hear women mention that their spouse or kids get their clothes really dirty. If that is the case, simply wet the article of clothing, rub some Fels-Naptha soap on the heavily soiled spot and let it soak in a tub or bucket of water overnight. The next day, the clothes will be easier to wash.

On laundry day, I set up my wash tubs on a bench or table outdoors near the clothesline. I add a scoop of the laundry soap to the wash water. In the rinse, I add a homemade fabric softener made with water, white vinegar, and borax. This works great!

Start with your least soiled clothing first. The reason for this is to allow you to not have to change out your wash water so often. I start with things like washcloths, towels, and other lightly soiled items. I gradually work up to the most heavily soiled items as the washing continues, changing the water as necessary to get the laundry clean.

I have a scrub board that I like to use for socks and heavily soiled items especially. This is not essential, but nice to have. You can order them new from places like Ace Hardware’s catalog. Another idea, which I saw in a video by another off-grid homesteader, is to use a rubber bath mat with the suction cups facing upward. Rubbing your clothing across the suction cups provides enough scrubbing power to get the dirt out of the clothing as well. I haven’t used this method yet myself, but the video was very convincing.

When hanging out the laundry on a line, have it in the full sun. This will allow the laundry to dry even faster. One thing you will notice is that the higher the cotton content, the more stiff the clothing may become. There are 2 reasons for this. First, the fabric dries fully. In a dryer, there is humidity that allows for a small amount of moisture to remain in the fabric. This is what helps to make the laundry feel soft. Another reason why the cotton fabric gets stiff is a lack of breeze. Hanging the laundry out on a windy or breezy day causes the fabric to flap in the breeze. This action, just like the tossing of fabric in a dryer, helps to keep the cotton fabric softer. Ideally, I try to do laundry on a day when we have a breeze that is strong enough to move the fabric about as it dries.

I typically will start doing laundry in the mid-morning during summer months. By lunchtime, the laundry is often not only washed, but dry as well. I love that time spent doing the washing. I set up out in the yard, with the kids playing nearby. We all enjoy the sun and fresh air as I do the washing. After I empty the wash tubs, they are dried and set aside until next time. It takes less than a half hour to wash and hang out the laundry. When doing it by hand, I wash 2-3 days worth at a time. This makes the job far less daunting. On the days in between washing clothing, I may do bedding or towels. This is simply a preference of mine. We homeschool year round and I don’t want to have to spend an entire morning washing a week’s worth of laundry and bedding. When the kids were little and slept in a bit longer, I often started laundry shortly after dawn. By the time the kids were waking up, all the laundry was already washed and on the line to dry.

One note on why I do laundry so often when washing by hand. It is not uncommon to have a rain storm in the spring and sometimes during summer. One year, we had rain nearly every day for a solid month! Because of this, I try to have the laundry done often to prevent it from piling up. On average, if done at a laundromat, a week’s worth of laundry costs about $20-$25 to wash and dry. This means I would be spending between $80 and $100 a month to do laundry! I can think of so many other ways to spend that money than to use a laundromat.

The main point though, is to be prepared. Whether you choose to try hand washing the laundry or not, be knowledgeable in how to do it. Don’t let yourself get caught unprepared should an emergency happen. The best time to gain knowledge or a new skill is BEFORE you need it.

 

Putting Our Focus Into Action February 25, 2016

Filed under: family,homesteading,simplicity,Uncategorized — ourprairiehome @ 8:04 pm
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Recently, I have been reading various blogs about the off grid journey that other homesteading families have been taking. It is a real education to see just how varied the lifestyles are. Some adopt a few of the off grid ideologies, while others go all out. It would seem that there are as many variants as there are homesteading families. Each has their own way of thinking and living out their dreams of self-reliance and off grid life.

Some families are still living the urban life, but are slowly taking on a more simple attitude. They are paying off their debt, without accumulating more, and are becoming more frugal in their spending. Some families are rural and just taking life a bit slower, planting a garden to feed their family over the summer months, and possibly raising a few chickens for eggs. You have bloggers who are definitely in the prepper category. Even within that category, you can have varied levels of self-reliance. Lastly, you have those who fit anywhere in between these examples. Hobby farmers, small family farms, tiny house owners who are trying to live a full life on less, and many more.

In nearly every case, the bloggers are in a state of transition. They are still evolving in their journey. Some make the transition quicker than others. There are those who seem to meet their journey’s goal within a very short time. Likewise, you have those who are moving towards their goals at a much slower pace. It is inspiring to read about their journeys. I always learn a new perspective from reading their blog posts. I also learn what they have found to work, and what doesn’t.

This brought to me a challenge. I have often spoke of scaling back and purging the unessential things from our home and lives. Recently, I began following a video blog, Starry Hilders Off Grid Homestead, on YouTube. She has a Facebook page as well. While watching her videos, I began to feel a convicting in my heart. It was a challenge coming from within to take our simplicity a little further than we currently are. It was also the kick in the arse that I have needed to feel reinvigorated about our journey.

While we have been dealing with job changes, our son’s therapy routines, and homeschooling, I have slowed down in a few areas that I used to enjoy. The first is doing laundry by hand. I used to enjoy it, even in winter. On warm days, I would wash the laundry outdoors, enjoying the sunshine as I watched the kids at play. I loved the peaceful nature of that task. I actually looked forward to it. I washed laundry every day or two, then hung it out on the clothesline to dry. In winter, I would heat up the water on the wood stove, wash laundry indoors and hang it up on folding clothes racks near the wood stove to dry.

We had family members staying with us over a long period and I got out of the habit of hand washing. We had gone from a household of 4 to a household of 8 people at one point. Being the lone person hand washing laundry, it just became too much. So, I started going to the laundromat in the nearest town, 10 miles away. This became a habit. Now, several years later, I still use the laundromat. I look at myself today and wonder why I am doing that? I spend nearly $70 a month doing laundry. That is ridiculous!!! I could be doing it for free here at home, utilizing the hand washing and clothesline, instead of feeding handfuls of quarters into the machines.

As I watched one particular video, I remembered something that really had me kicking myself in the arse. Washing laundry by hand is not only faster, but often is more effective in cleaning the laundry than using machines. When washing daily, the laundry takes less than a half hour to wash and hang out on the line. It can actually take me longer to set up the laundry tubs to do the washing and then rinse them out afterwords, than it takes for me to wash the clothing and hang it up to dry. On a hot summer day, the laundry can be fully dried within an hour. With that in mind, where is the laundromat making life easier? That $70 a month spent at the laundromat is $840 a year that we could have spent elsewhere.

A second area that I have had to rethink is our garden. Each year, we have either had to deal with drought or our garden being flooded out by heavy spring rains. One year, the plants did great but early summer heat damaged the garden. Many people lost their gardens in the same way we did. This has been a constant frustration point for me. I love having a garden and home canning the harvest for our pantry. I take delight in going out in the garden to pick the vegetables and salad fixings for our meals each day. Having the garden fail to produce has disheartened me many times. In the homesteading blogs, I am seeing more and more posts about raised bed gardening, also known as the Back to Eden or the Square Foot Garden methods. In some blogs, I read about those who simply lay out cardboard on the ground, then heap their straw/manure/compost layers on top to form a mound into which they plant their garden plants and seeds. Other blogs use the actual raised beds that are built using wood, bricks, cinder blocks, or large stones. Years ago, in the early 1980’s, I used the raised bed method to grow a garden in an upper desert region. This method was very effective in helping me to have a productive garden. I actually produced more harvest than my pantry had room for! I gave away about half of the harvest one year. Looking back, I really wish that I would have set up the raised beds here on our homestead much sooner. It may have made all the difference in whether or not we had a harvest on the years when the gardens were being flooded.

A third area that I am feeling needs changed is the criteria of what we will hold on to and what we get rid of. Even with all the purging that I have done in the past, we still have more than we actually need. The problem is that we always find new things that we want to keep. In summer, it is not difficult to go to yard sales and find something that ends up being an impulsive purchase. That alone can increase the stuff in the home that is not really necessary. This also applies for sales at the store. The purchase always seems reasonable until you get it home. Once home, you find yourself wondering why you bought the item. For this reason, I rarely go to a yard sale. When I do go to them, I have a specific item that I am looking for. I stick to my agenda and try not to allow myself to be swayed into the impulsive buying.

As readers already know, I have been working on clearing out a room of the house that has been used for storage for nearly the past two years. Much of what was stored is being purged from our home. We have thrown out bag after bag filled with items that we had held on to, but was not needed. Of all the belongings in that room, nearly everything has been purged from the room with the exception of the furniture, a few books, and a tote of photos. This has lit the fire under me to do the same with the rest of the rooms. Once the rooms are fully purged of the unnecessary things, we will have to have a system in place to avoid bring in too much again. One method is to limit items by the “one item in/one item out” rule. This works well, if you stick to it.

I am planning out my new raised bed garden space. It will be in higher ground and the beds made from cinder block. It will also be in an area that will be easier to water in summer as well as being closer to the house. I am thinking of incorporating trellis in the garden beds to save on space.

Lastly, I have a major goal for this season to get the house fully organized by summer. I have always loved the idea of “a space for everything & everything in its place.” Once I am finished, this will be the way I will have the home set up. I have learned in life that if the right system is set up, your daily life is much easier. You still have your daily chores, but the intensity is greatly reduced. The storage issue has always been a big one in our home. Typical of the time period in which it was built, our home has no built in storage. No cabinets anywhere in the home. The only closet is one that was added within the past 20 years. All storage is either shelving added on the walls or bookcases/shelving units that we have brought in. This is yet another area of organizing that I will be addressing as we do our remodel. When each room is done, some form of storage will be added to the room. Most likely to be added will be shelving or bookcases.

 

Finding Peace in a Chaotic World January 28, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — ourprairiehome @ 4:28 am

Over the past months, I have been doing a lot of work on myself.  It had been so easy to allow myself to get overwhelmed by life.  Hubby being gone for long periods while I was home really took some getting used to again.  I had become spoiled with having him home every night.  Now, I am back to dealing with the homestead on my own while he is away. 

It has taken some time, but I am finding my peace again.  That calm that reached deep onto your soul is coming back.  Yes, I still have moments of stress, such as when I had vehicle problems.  Over all though, I am learning to roll with it. 

My blogs, unfortunately have suffered from neglect during this time.  I am working on that.  Getting used to posting from a phone app has been interesting, to say the least.  I think I have found an internet service to suit my needs.  We are going to be buying a MiFi device that works in our area.  Once I get that, I will have a better set-up for doing the blogs.  Until then, the posts will be from the phone.

 

Early Blessings December 10, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — ourprairiehome @ 5:30 pm
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What a crazy few months!  Running the homestead while hubby is out on the truck has been an adjustment.  I have been getting the house ready for winter.  Firewood is being delivered a pickup truck load at a time so that we have the wood needed for the winter season.  So far the temps have been mild, but I am not holding my breath.  Back when Little Miss was a toddler, we had a very mild start to winter only to have a blizzard on Christmas Eve.

This weekend, I am putting plastic up on the windows to help keep an drafts out.  Even with double-pane windows, sometimes the cold can sneak in.  Putting the plastic up will help prevent that.

A neighbor got an extra deer this past season.  They brought to me the meat from a large buck.  I roasted it all up and cut into stew meat before pressure canning the entire thing.  Now, I have a pantry shelf loaded with venison to use throughout the winter months and into spring.

Once the daytime temps are consistently staying down in the 35-50 degree range, I will be buying a 50# bag of russet potatoes.  These will stay fresh and not grow sprouts all winter long.

I am buying a few sweet potatoes this week to allow to grow sprouts.  The sprouts are allowed to grow to be about 6 inches long.  Once they are long enough, I carefully break them off of the sweet potatoes and set them into a jar of water to grow roots.  By spring, I will have a good size batch of sweet potato slips to plant into the garden.

 

 

Bulk Food Tip September 21, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — ourprairiehome @ 2:58 pm

One of my favorite ways to save money is to shop the bulk food bins at Whole Foods or Sprouts Farmers Market. Both stores have a great selection in dried goods that store well in the pantry.

One problem that I see in buying these foods for the newbie is the pack of cooking instructions for those foods. With that in mind, here is a tip that I am using in my kitchen.

Take a blank book or notebook and write the basic recipes for preparing the food items. Having this information readily available will save a lot of frustration later.

Here is one example.  I recently purchased farina at Sprouts for 99 cents per pound. I filled a quart container for less than $2.00.  When I got home, I realised I had no instructions. Luckily I had a small box of farina in the pantry that I was able to copy the info from.

Having the information not only helps me, but anyone else in the family who wants to cook.  I may know how to cook lentils, but my daughter doesn’t.  

Once you have the basic cooking instructions recorded in the book, add favorite recipes using those bulk foods.  I am using a small 3-ring binder for mine. This way I can add index tabs to make finding each bulk food faster.