Unexpected homes, and our creativity as homesteaders

Every now and then I am struck with the fear that there are no unique ideas left. Sometimes the thought of setting my homestead apart from others presents itself as an impossible feat. I know I am not alone in this despondent feeling. It is usually in these low moments, when the goals seem so far away that an idea will never present itself. Ideas serve as the catalyst to re ignite my passion, and remind me of an important truth. All the resources I convince myself that I need are not nearly as valuable as the resources I already possess. And then like a thunderbolt, the dark cloud of “I can’t” is broken, and my imagination is rekindled.

in the middle of just such a funk, I found a video on TED talks. The idea presented snapped me back into focus. The talk is given by Iwan Baan, and it is called ingenious homes in unexpected places. Aside from the cursory thought of “I’m glad I live where I do” I was able to see past the initial impression and look deeper into what I was seeing. What the talk presented was an ingenuity that is sometimes lacking in this country. Incredibly simple solutions that bring people into alignment with their income stream, and fosters a sense of family vales that has been lost in the U.S.

In Argentina, a community built inside the unfinished hulk of a high rise office building, a cow pasture in the middle of an apartment building in Egypt. There was beauty, pride, and sense of worth amidst a trash heap. All of the conditions that would cause the average American to shutter and instantly long for their soft familiar life. The common theme I saw in all of these places is that every situation provided the elements needed to sustain life. Every collection of humanity pulled together the creative people that recognized, and filled niches that were once the needs of the community.

Every accomplishment achieved was done without first world amenities. Each milestone was made using the supplies that could be scavenged, or that were on hand. It was in this moment of watching Coptic Christians in Egypt scrape out a living by collecting recycling from the city, and building a life in conditions that most of the world would consider a landfill, that thunderbolt hit. The perplexing problems that led to my funk are now mole hills once more. The easing of the down turned mood is not from any sense of guilt or feeling bad. The change stems from a flash of inspiration. A thought that if these accomplishments can be done with that little, how much more can I do with the recourses that are at my command?

link to Iwan Baan TED talk

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Heading toward Christmas on the homestead

We are now less than a week from Christmas here on the homestead. All of the worries of the day take a break for a few days this time of year. The house is set, and the hearths are warm. Outside the world is wrapped in a thick white blanket. Our days have shortened and the earth sleeps again. It is this precious lull between harvest and planning for the year ahead that gives us pause to reflect. Thoughts of family, and friends that bless and enrich our lives everyday. We think of where we would be without them and pause, to give thanks. It is because of The Lord who gave his only begotten son that we give thanks.

All those years ago in an occupied land a baby was born in a manger because there was no room at the inn. All those years ago he was born, to die for us. All those years ago when self reliance, and self sufficiency had teeth. A time where if you were not both of these; well you were dead. There was no option to hit the store if a particular crop did not come in, or if a predator made off with your chickens. Your car was an ass, and your truck; a cart. It was into this world a child was born.

The son of a carpenter, and a virgin. He was showered in that manger with gifts and worship by all those that had the wisdom to see what had happened to this world. Those that saw the gift that was given to us. The babe grew to man, and fulfilled his destiny. It is because of this birth that we celebrate the season. It is because of this birth we rejoice, and raise our voices in glad song.

In our time we forget ourselves. We are awash in a sea of material things pedaled to us with the goal of creating wealth. The longer we are upon the sea the harder it is to see the lighthouse that is the ultimate gift ever given to man, our Christ. It is this very time of year that holds the greatest need to refocus, find the lighthouse that is Christ, and begin the long row back.

My purpose with this post is not to bludgeon anyone with an anti consumerist club, nor is it to alienate any faith besides my own. We all shop. We all exchange gifts. We are all free to worship what we want to worship. My purpose is simply to speak to fellow believers in Christ, and encourage them to keep rowing, and keep pulling closer to him. I also want to wish all of my readers a joyous and safe time through to the new year.

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Winter travel: are you ready to survive?

Today the thermometer is in the negative. An unprepared walk could be fatal. Are you prepared to wait or walk to safety? In this type of weather there are always people discussing how awful it is, but how many are ready for it? I would venture a guess that very few truly are. I would also comfortably say that many are driving to their destination in a tee shirt, with only a light jacket. So what you say. A tow truck only takes about an hour. here is a link to some hypothermia information. Is there enough gear in your vehicle to wait that hour, without hypothermia? If you have to walk it out are you prepared for that?

Here are some ideas on being ready

Dress for the weather

The very first action that you can take to ensure that the frosty temps ruin or end your day is to dress for the conditions. Layers, thermals, and good outer shell garments will help to “thicken your skin” to the cold. Standard street clothes will do very little to preserve your precious body heat in very cold weather.

Manage the heat you have

Once your layered up manage the heat that is available to you. It is tempting to get in the car and bury the heat dial on the hottest temperature available. When you are properly layered this is not necessary , and in most cases is counter productive. Sweat is not your friend here since heat is transferred faster from a sweaty body than a dry one.

Is the car ready..

Is your vehicle ready to brave the elements? It is tempting many times to assume that the nagging issue with your vehicle will limp through. While this could be a nice little adventure on a summer night or Sunday afternoon. When it happens on a sub zero night adventure can become nightmare. If you have a weak battery, known mechanical issue or anything else it may be better to re think the journey. Another idea is to take a walk around your vehicle, and look for anything that is amiss. The final piece is to be sure the vehicle has ample fuel. While I’m sure that last bit generated a “duh” I’m sure every one of us including myself have jumped in the vehicle and thought “that’s enough fuel to get there and back”.

Food, water, fire, and shelter

All but one of these items you can go with out if you have to for a while. Having them all there though creates an ability. The ability to sustain life. If you do not already have one consider creating a 72 hour bag. These bags go by a plethora of names, and their contents are somewhat like fingerprints. No two are the same. There is however a constant among them all, every one that is worth a tinkers damn contains food, water, fire, and sometimes shelter. Consider creating one if you have not already, it could save your bacon.

Do you truly know where you are?

This piece I think is the most overlooked factor. You may have a GPS in your vehicle, or on your phone but do you truly know where you are? Do you know the fastest way from A to B? Extreme cold weather is not the time to realize that exploring back roads can get you way out of town. Know the route you will be using, know the landmarks, and know where the resources are. A good tool for doing this is Google maps. Even if it is the route you take to work everyday, a look at a satellite picture may very well reveal things you never knew were there. The maps are printable so why not have one with you? Mark it up as you go. If you notice that cutting through a farmers field is drastically shorter than sticking to the pavement, make a note of it. The very worst case scenario here is that you carry a couple of pieces of marked up paper around and never use them. The very best? The maps you made save you a four mile walk at -15.

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View From the Feeder

Today I had a visit from this little fellow. He got used to me to the point that this picture was just under a foot from him.

a brazen chipmunk at a bird feeder

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Before A Labyrinth

Good morning;

I first want to apologize for not being on top of this blog as I should. I want to let you know, I am still here. This is a time
For thinking. The leaves are all gone now, and the snows of winter have arrived. While the larders are full and the gardens sleep
There is time for contemplation.

The lifestyle of homesteading has many facets. Many aspects that when taken together create the sustainable life that we all desire. When I first began this journey, I was as a man, before a Herculean labyrinth. All of the directions assaulted at once, and were coupled with a world that was seemingly spinning its self apart. When the fog of all that sustainability entailed had cleared a bit I was able to step back. With the help of this community I have been able to make some sense of the monstrous tasks that lay ahead.

What then did the man before the labyrinth see? What challenges were presented? What promises? He saw an unsolvable riddle, the answer to which carried a price which exceeded unattainable. He saw a glorious, better life glimmering from within the puzzle. He saw freedom promised, and found incrementally throughout. He saw that the world left behind, would to some degree turn itself upon; and reject him. He saw the minions, guarding the stolen dreams of his forefathers.

What then would cause a man, in the face of such a Goliath to choose a path? I’ll tell you. The man looked down to his feet, and there beside his were four small indentations in the dirt. They were the shape of small feet. The man chose to take a path because of this. He chose for the purpose of reigniting the torch of his forefathers, and delivering on the promise that was stolen from them many years ago. It is a promise as old as nature itself. The promise to ensure that ones offspring will be better prepared than that of the parent.

It is this ideal that leads me now. It is this image that urges me along through the labyrinth. I would like to hear your story, your vision of your journey. I would love to know what drives you toward your goal.

Until next time


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Fall cleaning series: closing the garden

The last few weeks have been very busy. I have finally been able to pull some of the fall crop from the garden and collect some seed. The carrots finished very well and produced quite a few large carrots. There are several sunflowers that were taken out, as well as some really good bean seed. The next steps are to chop and drop everything that’s left. One of the beds has been invaded by Bermuda grass, and will probably get the black plastic treatment after the veggies come out.
On another note I recently turned 21, ( for the twelfth time) mrs lilred and the rug rats got me a nice canning set. I’m looking for a good recipe to start with. If any of you out there have an easy, no fail recipe that I can cut my canning teeth on let me know in the comments. I still have this false conception that everything canned will resemble a medical jar, and taste of pickles. I think if I can it myself this will go away.
We also have a new mouser joining the homestead, he should be here sometime today. There is nothing like a few good cats in a farm house to keep the mice honest. And since there is no way to mouse proof an old farm house a cat or two are essential.

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Fall cleaning series: behind appliances

As we cruise through fall and on to the dreaded winter the work load explodes. It seems as though, overnight there are now a thousand things that scream for our undivided attention. If you are like us and closed in for months on end without being able to open a window, the preparations for this time are essential for better air quality and hygiene through the winter months.
Today’s focus is on the favorite holdouts for dust bunnies, and those lost things you thought you would never see again. That’s right, were talking behind the appliances, and under furniture. We recently removed an old chair that we had for ages. It was a bit broken and smelled of dog. Now that it is gone, and cleaned up after it gives the room a very spacious feel.
When cleaning under and behind the appliances don’t forget to vacuum off the coils and compressor. Also take a quick look for anything odd or out of place. Even though you may not be a appliance repair expert, chances are good that you can spot something out of the ordinary. This may save you from having to lug a fridge or stove thought the snow and cold.
I was hoping to post some dirty pics of the backside…..of my fridge haha. But alas motivation is fleeting, and a business trip squashed that for now.

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