The first step in my journey to off grid style living did not come about from any urge to go green, or to stick it to the man or any of the other common reasons. The first step was a call from the Creator of all things to come out of Babylon. Secondary to that was a economic incentive. Lower the cost of food. So begins my journey to get closer to my Elohim and to grow healthy food cheaper than I can buy it. I will be making short posts and adding pictures of projects we have planned from beginning to end as they happen.
And showing a bit of grumpiness. It’s who I am. Sometimes. Mostly. Ok ok a lot if it is early in the morning before coffee. And staying grumpy is hard work! Grumble…
It has been a while since my last post. Mainly because I am lazy. It is now the first week of January and I am sitting here with the doors and windows propped open. It is a beautiful day with a temperature of 71 F. But nature is not fooling me. I know the coldest weather is on its way. Our utility bill was astronomical last winter, but this year we made some changes. We now have a 250 gallon propane tank and a 20,000 BTU radiant heater in the living area.
The initial cost was not cheap but we will more than make up for the setup costs in our electric bills. Speaking of bills. Finding quality tools that do not break the budget can be a challenge. And ensuring that you have the correct tool for the job can be confusing for me. So the Lady of the house devised a system to help.
I didn’t do any deer hunting this year due to other issues taking precedence, but I have been continuing the work of establishing the garden. I am not growing any winter crops or ground cover this year so will cover the beds with plastic until Spring. Two raised beds that have a footprint of 8×4 feet each and a 10×10 foot area that will be for straw bale gardening. Cedar mulch has been spread and the fence erected, although I haven’t decided exactly how and where I will place the gate.
We should have the last of the material needed to build our chicken coop by the end of the month. Then rabbits. Maybe a goat. The list seems to never end… One thing we want will be a real challenge. A cold pantry or root cellar. Oh well one step at a time.
Stay salty. Stay safe. Hug your loved ones.
Ever know someone who never throws things away? Worn out, faded, ragged and rough, they hang on to stuff that a lot of people would have tossed in the dump long ago. I love those kind of people. Why? Because sooner or later a spouse or maybe a child will put their foot down and make them get rid of some of the stuff. Eighty percent of the things I am using on our little hobby ranch/farm is used. Rusty gold. Often less than half what it cost new, if not free. So an update and a picture or two. First are the tomato plants I saved after the horn worms nearly wiped them out.
They are now over four feet tall and both have several fruits on them. The one on the left is a cherry variety. The one on the right is a plain one. The cherry tomatoes are very tasty. Fresh herbs too. My dill bit the dust but the Basil is fine. I keep them in the freezer till I have enough to justify using the oven to dry them. Next up is the area I am preparing for ducks. It’s hard to see but under the kiddie pool is a very well made dog house that a lady was selling for a good price. Insulated and a hinged metal top. After adding some vents it will make a fine duck house. That and some sheets of plywood, mine for 80 dollars. It is about 125 dollars worth of stuff.
The fence is new, but the t post cost me nothing. And there are about 100 more on our land I can gather up if needed. Next up is an air plant that is 32 years old. There are babies we will be giving away soon. Also some Lantana. Beverly didn’t believe me when I told her it’s nearly impossible to kill this stuff. We tossed some twigs into wet newspaper before we made the 1400 mile trip to get here. Needless to say the proof is in the picture.
Living out in the country is nice. But it does come at a cost. Very spotty cell phone service. Expensive satellite dish for internet and TV. And bears. Did I mention bears? My neighbor has permission to hunt deer on our land in exchange for half the meat. He has a deer feeder and tree stand set up in the far north-west corner of our property. They started putting deer food in it a week or so ago. A couple of days ago a bear tore it into pieces and ate all the feed. So they are going to buy a very expensive all metal feeder to replace it. At least the ones around here are black bears. Relatively small, seldom weighing more than a couple of hundred pounds and easy to scare off. With that said we are still cautious. If one loses its fear of humans then there are only two options. Relocate it to a remote area or kill it. Hopefully that never happens. The bears were nearly wiped out in Arkansas a hundred years ago but are making a strong come back. If they leave us alone we will leave them alone.
Last but not least. Here is a picture taken at an overlook parking spot on the highway that goes to Hot Springs and Little Rock.
Remember. Do what you can with what you have where you are. Trust in God, family and friends.
We live in the U.S.A. in a state called Arkansas. What some people may not know is about 80% of the land is hills and mountains. So we call it Rockansas. Rocks literally sprout from the ground. As a result around here if you want a garden, it’s a lot of hard labor, or you go with raised beds. Another issue where our homestead is located is the quality of the soil. It is sand, rock, and clay. Lots of clay. And rocks that multiply like rabbits using Viagra. But enough of my rambling. Let’s get to this update. Material gathering.
There is a couple about 50 miles from here in Oklahoma clearing land and harvesting cedar trees. She is giving away cedar mulch for free, so I went and got a pickup truck load. The tarp isn’t to keep it dry, its to keep the wind from blowing it away. This mulch will be used to line the paths in between my garden beds and the outer edges between the beds and fence. In the shed are 20 pieces of eight foot long 2×4’s. These are for the chicken coop. I am now hunting the local swap shop on Facebook and garage sales looking for old tin siding or roofing for that project.
After spending weeks and a little cash I finally got all of the junk and garbage left by previous owners gathered into one pile. The result is well worth it. Our driveway looks like someone lives here, instead of like an abandoned trailer park. Behind the burn pile you can see my relocated compost bin. It wasn’t getting hot enough, so I moved it to a spot where it gets a lot more sunlight. And I have cleared about 20 feet of the bank on our pond so we can now get to the water to fish. See those brown things around the tree in the middle picture? Rocks. I didn’t dig them up. I simply picked up the rocks on our land and along the road that goes from our house to the main road. Soon I will have enough to build a nice fire pit for us to enjoy in cooler weather. And the rocks will grow back. Just Kidding. But as the mountain “breathes” and the ground freezes more rocks will push their way up to the surface. It’s a never-ending supply of free building material. 🙂
God has been very, very good to us. We seldom have spare cash, but we have a home that’s paid for, food to eat and most important of all, each other. That is what it is all about. Faith. Family. Friends. The “simple” life isn’t always easy. But with faith and family it can be very rewarding. Tell your people you love them every day.
Stay salty! Stay the course! Finish the race! You can do it with God’s help.
There is a time in every person’s life when they learn that doing nothing is a fine art. And that it takes determination and planning to accomplish nothing. Alas the good times seldom last. We acquired a pickup truck. And now I have no excuse to continue to ignore projects.
First up was the small deck on what is actually the back of the house.
The old deck will be dismantled and used along with new and old wire weld fencing to turn our tiny garden into something that can start producing food in large enough quantities to put a dent in the grocery bill. Not to mention tastier and healthier.
My peas failed but the kale, beans, potatoes and squash are looking good. The black object on the old deck is a 100 year old cast iron wood stove that I bought for a good price. Some of the nuts and bolts need replaced but all the hardware is there. I am in the process of cleaning it up to stop the rust and reconditioning the burner plates. It will eventually wind up in our cabin when it gets built. Or maybe a really big paperweight!
My one wish is that I was a young man again for a few years. I would purchase a chainsaw powered sawmill and make my own lumber with the trees we have on our farm. But alas that is not to be. So I am on the hunt now for people selling old sheds and outbuildings that I can scavenge. And staying cool.
Anyone else out there had a major purchase such as a car or tractor lately? And if so do you find your project list shrinking or growing? Mine seems to be growing. Sigh. It may be years before I can be lazy again. Ah well such is life.
Stay salty! Until next time.
Spring is fading away and the summer sun is demanding its turn. My small garden is looking ok and we have green sunfish proliferating in our small pond. My Elohim has been very good to us and our cup is running over. Here are a couple of pictures of the garden. The potato plants are blooming. The peas are making pods. The wife has been enjoying the kale and Swiss chard in her take to work dinners.
The bare trees and seemingly endless vista of brown and grey dreariness seen from our deck has given way to the renewing of life.
The one thing I kind of wish I had is a ghostly twin. Even though I do not believe in wandering spirits it would be handy to have two of me running around doing the work. We finally acquired a mower so I have been slowly beating down the waist high grass around our house. The mower, like me, is older and beaten and scarred, but it still works. Ninety percent of our land will be allowed to go back to nature. I am only keeping an acre or so around our important buildings cleared. Fences need mended, some trees need to be cleared, the pond needs some TLC. The list never ends. But without a list of objectives to accomplish daily why bother getting out of bed? To paraphrase Solomon from the book of the bible called The Preacher: “Elohim has given these tasks to men. Work every day then enjoy the fruit of your labor, your family and friends; for life is short, like a puff of wind.”
We will soon be in a little better shape finance wise and will be acquiring a old pickup truck. Then I can start on our chicken coop and rabbit hut. I will update and post pictures of these projects as they happen. Unfortunately it is just me, no ghostly twin. Ah well. For the parts that need two people there is no shortage of local people who are handyman types looking for day work. Stay safe out there! And always stay salty!
Well spring is here for real and tomato plants are looking good . Potatoes are popping and the kale looks krunchy . But today is about the natural state of our land .
We have blackberry growing all over our land, from one end to the other. The red flowers are some type of vine creeping across the ground.
I have only found a handful of the purple flower. No idea what it is but they are not near each other. The yellow one may be some kind of wild mustard. It is about two foot tall now.
This poor guy. It is kind of a sad story. Meet Boomer, the latest addition to our family. I will skip the details of how we found him. He had not been bathed or brushed in years and his coat was matted so bad that we were afraid of what we would find underneath. Believe it or not he was solid black before the dog groomer made it out to our place with her mobile set up. No open wounds or infections seeping nastiness which was a blessing. We got him in to see a vet and she confirmed my guess at his age. He is around 10 to 12 years old. His skin is healing nicely. Treating him for heartworms. His teeth are a bit worn from age but he can still munch kibble and doggie treats well. Make no mistake he is not a lap dog! This puppy tipped the scale at a hefty 86 pounds and has a 3 inch diameter paw. What we will do is give him a nice home to retire in, and when it comes time I can give him a last walk and hunt in the woods.
We are stilling debating and remaking our plans for our coop. It should not be long before we get started on it. Remember. Do what you can with what you have where you are. Anyone can “homestead” even if living in a city. Stay safe. Stay dry. Stay salty!
Small dilemma. I have just enough tin sheets to make a nice doghouse or a coop for the ducks. As with any situation that requires me to think, I take a break and hope it solves its self.
I started asking myself why are we doing this? We sold practically everything we had and moved into the middle of nowhere. Then I broadened this thought to why does anyone do this. Drop what they are doing and basically abandon what passes for modern life these days to homestead.
Freedom. Sure there are many who will voice it in a different way. But it all boils down to feedom. Freedom to succeed. Freedom to fail. Freedom to truly be who you want to be. And the freedom to realize you hate the lifestyle and decide to move back to the city.
You may have noticed the pistol in the picture. Out here I always have a loaded gun within reach. The chance of a bear, large bobcat or rabid dog someone abandoned or a fox is a very real threat. Just part of the price we pay for the lifestyle we want. No high-speed internet. Sometimes I have cell phone service and sometimes I can’t even call 911. But no homeowners association. No neighbors within a mile to whine about my dog taking a nap in their flowers.
Downsizing and moving into a much smaller house. No pizza delivery. No more World of Warcraft or anything else that requires high-speed internet. Driving twenty miles to find a cellphone signal strong enough to actually place a call. It was painful at first. But now I fill my time with more useful things such as hugging my wife. Talking to real people. Reading a real book.
Why work like a dog and never stop to enjoy the fruit of your labor? Can those chores not wait a day? Will the garden wilt and die, will the livestock be rustled, and will the homestead be whisked off to Kansas in some twisted remake of The Wizard of Oz? Even though disaster was just waiting to pounce, we took a chance and declared a day off from homesteading and went exploring a bit.
The Talimena Scenic drive is a stretch of road that runs along the top of Rich Mountain in Arkansas and then west into Oklahoma. This road is not your typical city or suburban highway. It is a two lane road, narrow in places, lots of steep grades and switchbacks, and plenty of places to plunge to your death with drop offs of hundreds, if not thousands, of feet. There is even a sign giving warning as you enter the forest telling you that you are on your own and enter at your own risk. In inclement weather it can take an hour or more to get emergency help while up in these mountains.
The upside is that it is some of the most gorgeous scenery in the United States.
And near the top of the mountain about twenty miles from Mena Arkansas is the Queen Wilhelmina state park. It has all the amenities, including a lodge with very nice rooms and an excellent restaurant. And a train! One is an ancient locomotive, good for photo ops. The other is a miniature train you can ride and see the sites. But, it was not open yet. Still waiting on Spring to, you know, actually get here. (Today is April 13th 2018).
It is still a bit early to explore this area. Even though there are plenty of hiking trails, campsites and recreation areas the trees and shrubs are still in winter mode. Not a lot of green yet. We will return and drive the entire trail in June. I promise lots of pictures when we do. 🙂
Here are THE VOICE OF COMPELLING (Beverly) and the grump (me). This picture was not taken on the trail. It was taken at another location we visited on the same day. I will be coming back to this area soon, as it involves fishing and homesteading.
And yes I am grumbling at the camera. It is what I do. Grumble and grouch, because I am grumpy. All this fuss just to relax… it’s a lot of effort! And putting in effort makes me grouchy…..
Stay salty out there!
I like to reuse stuff. Sometimes I even gather enough energy over time to recycle a few things. I like to repurpose stuff when I can. I donate stuff that falls through some black hole in the space-time continuum and winds up in my closet. But this thing. Yeah. I am stumped. The previous owners from a time long ago left this in the yard for some mystical reason. No one knows how long it has been there. Or why. It has to be one of the oddest things I have ever had to deal with. How does one reuse it? Recycle it? Repurpose it?
If you don’t know what it is, let me clue you in. It’s a giant poop container. Otherwise known as a septic tank. Our current plan is to plant shrubs and flowers around it and utilize cement and plaster to make it look like a hobbit house, or a gnome condominium.
Do any of you have an suggestion? Keep in mind this thing weighs upwards of 1800 pounds and I do not own a tractor. Perhaps carve out a door and turn it into a dog house? Blow it up with dynamite? Name it “Unknown Rock” and start an art exhibit? I’m open to any and all ideas.
I am a sucker for underdogs. I just can’t seem to help myself when I see people or things down on their luck, but still trying. On the other hand, I have no empathy for those who make no effort to better themselves and are simply leeches attached to society like barnacles to a ship.
Case in point: The stick you see in the picture. There are actually two of these sticks planted in our yard. They were rejected by society, and were languishing in the bottom of the boxes at the local Walmart. All of the “best” sticks had been bought. These two sorry specimens were all that remained. No leaves. No green showing. Just a nub of apparently dead wood peeking out of the top of the packing material. One is a blackberry. The other is a raspberry. Homeless and afraid, with nothing more than a cardboard wrap to keep them warm. So I bought both and brought them home.
Will I coax them along with words of encouragement? Nope. Will I test the soil to make sure they get the correct nutrients? Not gonna happen. Maybe I should roll out some rock and hit them with “Working Man” by Rush? Or maybe the soundtrack from The Blues Brothers? Nah. I believe in tough love. I dug a hole, unwrapped what remained of the stick and stuck it in the ground. I gave them a new shot at life. Now it is up to them to make something out of it.
A week later I see new growth.
I have faith. I believe we will be enjoying blackberry and raspberry dishes in the near future.