Saturday, January 28, 2017

My Thrift Store Challenge

Before I made my big move to live tiny in the country, I was a city/suburb person. I lived in big houses, bought the latest trendy crap, and dreamed of the "simple life." When I finally made the choice to jump in feet first and make my move, I started making lists. Lists of everything I thought I would ever need in a house. My lists were formed room by room. I mentally checked off everything at first, then I actually made paper lists. For example, a bedroom would need a bed, two dressers (long and tall), two night tables, two lamps, two changes of sheets, etc. You get the idea. I poured over catalogs, wandered in stores, visualized my particular style, and slowly began ticking things off the list as I purchased them. By the time I made my big move I had collected almost everything on the list.

Two Lamps for $10.95. Score!
Over the years I had discovered I got great joy of finding an expensive item at a fraction of the cost on places like Craigslist, Goodwill, and thrift stores. I made a game out of it - a type of adult scavenger hunt, if you will. I got a rush and sense of personal victory never paying full cost for the things on my list. I made a commitment to buy the best, but never pay full price. I also like the idea of buying things secondhand because I feel it is more environmentally friendly.

I went with a good friend thrift shopping on Saturday and scored two terrific vintage tole lamps for my new recording studio at just $10.95 for both. I also found some fantastic vintage oven pads someone's grandmother crocheted for just a dollar. But other than those two purchases, I didn't find anything I didn't already have or simply did not need.

So here I am surrounded by the things I researched, coveted, and collected. But here's the weird thing: Now that I have all these things and the challenge has been met, I find myself kind of bored and miss "the thrill of the hunt." Shopping no longer seems fun. There are no pressing needs or personal missions with which to focus my nervous energies. I didn't realize how much I enjoyed those personal challenges. This got me thinking about setting up a new challenge for myself.

I am setting up a "Self Sufficiency" or "Prepper" challenge for myself. I am going to scour Craigslist, Goodwill, thrift stores, etc. for items for the homestead that will allow more independence. Here are some of the items on my list:
Old School Meat Grinder

  • Sausage/Meat Grinder
  • Grain Mill
  • Kitchen Aid Mixer Add On's
  • Cider Press
  • Cheese Press
  • Large Crocks 
  • Dehydrator 2/4/17 ($5 at thrift store)
  • Pasta Machine
  • Berkey Big Water Filter
  • Solar Cooker
  • Manual Crank Ice Cream Maker
  • Vintage Storage Baskets

I love an adult scavenger hunt. How about you? What are some of the things on your "want" list that you think you could find at substantial savings second-hand?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Considering a Straw Bale Garden

It's that time of year again. The time when I pour over seed catalogs and dream of boundless harvests after an idyllic summer of warm sunshine and soft rainfall. I dream of a fantastic harvest of a wide variety of vegetables with visions of endless fresh veggies and plenty left over to preserve. If you are a homesteader or dream of being a homesteader, I bet you are doing this too.

This year will be my 3rd summer in Oklahoma. On my homestead plan this is the year of the garden. I have a vision of how my garden will ultimately look, however my budget prevents me from buying the galvanized stock tanks ($70 each x 15) the plan calls for. I am not willing to give up my vision, so I decided to explore some other, less costly options until I then.
  1. I could grow my garden in bags. Yes, bags. This is a form of container gardening I have considered in the past, but dismiss because I don't like the look very much. 
  2. I could just slap together some wood and form some beds, but then I still have to fill them with soil (costly) and then when I am finished with them I will have to find a way to move all that soil. Not the way I want to spend my energy. Too much labor with too little reward.
  3. Thirdly, I can use what I have on hand. I have lots of straw bales on hand. Bingo. 

Straw Bale Gardens by Joel Karsten
Straw bale gardening is a form of container gardening. You basically prepare your bales by fertilizing and watering, then when ready, just poke a hole into the straw, put some soil in the hole, plant your seed, and keep the bale watered and fertilized. The bale will decompose over time and the plants will flourish. Use good straw bales and you won't even have to weed! Mind you this is a very simplified explanation, but have no worries, I will explain the entire process with pictures when I begin. You, dear reader, can follow along on my adventure and we can see if it will work.

Interested? Intrigued? Interested in trying straw bale gardening at your place?

You can read a great article about straw bale gardening written by Mary Yee here that gives a good overview of the process and has anecdotal information from the American Horticultural Society's attempt at a straw bale garden in Virginia.

You should also get a copy of  Joel Karsten's book (he is the guy who wrote the book on this process literally) Straw Bale Gardens Complete: Breakthrough Vegetable Gardening Method. This book is the straw bale garden bible!

Currently I use my straw bales to insulate my tiny house against wicked cold winter winds, but soon winter will be over and I will drag the bales out to the open sunny spot where the garden is planned. I have 10 bales at this time and will pick up another 10. I figure 20 bales is a decent sized garden. By the way, 20 bales of straw is just $140. Fertilizer and a couple good size bags of garden soil is all I will need. How budget friendly is that?!!

Bring on Spring cause this gal is ready to grow stuff!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Tiny House Homestead Podcast #34

Podcast Title: County Extension Service, Home Remedies for Ear Aches, and Farmer Barbie

Podcast Episode 34 Show Notes

This episode covers….

Welcome to the New Year and the first podcast recorded in the new Tiny House Recording Studio. Today we talk about home remedies for ear aches, the invaluable resource of the County Extension Service, a great recipe for home made granola, and the oh so glamorous Farmer Barbie. Welcome to Tiny House Homestead.

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Someone Shot My Dog

His stature reflected his pain level.
I let my dog out at 7 am on Monday, January 2nd. I fed the goats and chickens and puttered around the homestead. Around 11 am I noticed Airies sitting off to the side of the house. Something just didn't look right. I called him over and noticed him favoring his front left leg. He cried and laid his head in my lap as I searched to see if something was stuck in his paw. That is when I noticed the puncture wound and a little blood on his left shoulder. I took him inside, cleaned up the injury and put some antibiotic ointment on the wound. It didn't look bad and wasn't even bleeding.

By the time we got to the vet
he was clearly not himself
He seemed to be doing ok at first, but as the day progressed I noticed he just seemed to lay around and wasn't his normal, spunky self. He looked so pathetic. He continued to favor his leg and cried out when he put pressure on it. I was getting very concerned. Even the way he would stand looked uncomfortable. Could he have gotten caught in a barb fence or maybe run into something hard enough to cause the puncture and maybe dislocate his shoulder? Getting annoyed with me fussing over him, Airies took himself to the lower pasture and just laid in the grass, continuing to look pathetic.

That night he cried out frequently and could not seem to get comfortable. After a very long, sleepless night, I called the vet and scheduled an appointment. Airies knew he was in for a visit to the vet because that is the only time he ever rides in the car. He looked torn between the pain in his shoulder and concern over the car ride.
The vet took one look at the wound and said, "I think he got shot. Lets get an X-ray and take a look."

 Here is what the doc discovered: 

The X-ray revealed the bullet
Can you believe it? I couldn't. Honestly, I was shocked. Yep, that is a 22 caliber bullet in his left shoulder. Thankfully the bullet did not hit bone. Thinking back over the morning, I didn't recall hearing any gunshots, however I live out in the country on a large tract of land. With a .22 I may not have heard it. but there are a couple of ways my dog could have met with the business end of a gun. 

First, he could have been on someone else's property. Out here a strange dog on your property normally means your chickens or other livestock may be at risk. It is not uncommon for folks to shoot an animal threatening their livestock.

Second, it is hunting season here in Oklahoma. Because the bullet did not go further than through muscle tissue, it is possible it was a stray bullet. That thought is not very comforting either.

Finally, someone could just have been being mean and have shot him on purpose. I am certainly hoping this is not what really happened.

Recovering at home

The vet said because the bullet is in soft tissue and did not damage any of the bone, the bullet will remain a souvenir of the time my dog got very lucky and dodged a bullet, so to speak. (Sorry, I could not resist.)

Three days of pain pills and a week of antibiotics combined with rest and Airies will be good as new. However, I have greatly curbed his freedom and now am securing him on a zip line when he is outside until I can afford to build him a dog run. Unless I can be sure he remains on the confines of my four acres, Airies will have to get used to the 70 feet of zipline he is allotted.

Airies has been spending a lot of time relaxing indoors as he heals. He even seems mildly irritated when I put hims on a leash to go outside. However, a good farm dog is invaluable and I don't want to see him come to harm. I consider my farm dog a member of my family.

Lesson learned ... the hard way.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

County Extension Offices: A Homesteader's Best Friend

For many of us former (or hoping to be former) city slickers, the purpose and role of the County Extension Office is somewhat of a mystery.
Whether you live in the city, suburbs, or country, the County Extension system today is an invaluable resource available to everyone.

To understand the role of the Extension Service, you must travel back in time to the start of Land-Grant Colleges, commonly known as Land-Grant Universities today. Land-Grant Universities were identified by a state to receive the benefits of the Morrill mmActs of 1862 and 1890. The Morrill Acts granted Federally controlled land to the states to sell, raise funds, establish, and endow Land-Grant colleges.

In 1819, after the American Revolutionary War, the American Farmer encouraged farmers to report on achievements and their methods of solving problems. This forum was a popular way for farmers to exchange information on what worked and what didn't work. Being able to share useful, practical, and research based information made sense and caught on quickly.

The mission of the Morrill Act of 1862 was to build Land-Grant institutions foucssing on teaching practical and useful agricultural, science, military science, and engineering skills to the population without excluding classical studies. This movement was in direct response to the Industrial Revolution and the evolution of the social classes. The first Morrill Act provided funds to allow educational institutions to study and develop scientifically proven methods for agriculture, science, engineering, and military science and then to share that knowledge with the public.

The Second Morrill Act of 1890 was aimed at the former Confederate States. The same principles and goals of the 1862 Act held, however new limits were imposed. The new limits stated the states benefiting from the Act could not consider race a criterion for admission or, if they did, a separate Land-Grant institution for people of color would need to be established. The states were granted cash instead of land for these new Land-Grant institutions.

Then in 1914 the Smith-Lever Act was a federal law establishing a system of cooperative extension offices connected with the Land-Grant universities which would be used to "inform on current developments in agriculture, home economics, public policy, government, leadership, 4-H, economic development, coastal issues, and other related subjects." This education would be in the form of "home instruction."
By British government - Original publication:
Poster in Britain in 1917-18*

There are 100 Land-Grant Universities. Some examples are Pennsylvania State University, University of Arizona, Oklahoma State University, University of Wisconsin, along with Rutgers (the oldest University to receive the Grant), and Iowa State (the first to receive the grant.) Every state has at least one Land-Grant University.

Extension offices really began to shine during WWI. During the Great War extension offices helped increase wheat production from 47 million acres in 1913 to 74 million acres in 1919. The Extension Service partnered with the USDA to teach canning, drying, and preserving of food. The Extension Service helped with war-time labor shortages by organizing the Women's Land Army and The Boy's Working Reserve.

Many, many programs have come from the Extension Service. One of the most well known is 4-H. 4-H is a youth development program that has served over 1 million of America's youth. Programs vary, but in my neck of the woods 4-H students raise livestock, grow crops, and learn public speaking. Extension Service can teach us to grow our garden, grow our lawns, manage our forests, control pests, learn to preserve foods safely, offer community gatherings, and much, much more. It is useful even if you reside in an urban or suburban environment. Remember how you could just dial up your local librarian back in the day? How you could just dial up, ask a question, and get an answer? Your local extension office can do the same. The local extension office in your area will produce materials dealing with plants, pests, birds, game, basically anything in your area. They can help you identify that unknown mushroom growing on your tree, identify what pest is eating your prized tomatoes, and help you maximize the use of your land. If you are not utilizing their services, you don't know what you are missing. Get to know the folks in your county extension office. You won't be disappointed.

*By British government - Original publication: Poster in Britain in 1917-18 Immediate source:, Public Domain,