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The Minimalist Homesteader

I recently posted a photo to our Instagram feed of myself, a minimalist, canning and preserving a years worth of strawberry jam like any other homesteader this time of year. The post sparked an interesting discussion about the oxy-moronic minimalist homesteader and if there is such a thing.

Typically, if you look in a homesteader's pantry, it screams anything but minimalist. There will be shelves weighted with several recipes of jams, jellies, beans, pickles, salsa, pie fillings and if the supply has depleted, the scene sways to empty jars in a variety of sizes, canning equipment, not to mention the barn full of scrap wood, machines and gardening tools we would we would never know they actual names for.

Homesteading is defined as the lifestyle of self-sufficiency which entails growing and raising your own food, cooking and baking your meals, handicrafts such as knitting, crocheting, sewing, candle making and caring for livestock (ie, chickens, ducks, pigs, cows, goats and bees). It requires a lot of hard and continual work, as well as the tools requires to perform the above tasks. Raising chickens alone requires a coop, enclosed area, feeders, waterers, fencing, brooders, heat lamps, an incubator and so much more!

On the contrary, if you were to peek into a stereotypical minimalist's home the scene would be sparse, clean, tidy and contains only what's needed. However, minimalism is not only about getting rid of the things you don't really need but making the space in your life, your own, for the most important and interesting parts of your life and how you wish to spend your valuable days.

Growing food itself is a very minimal homesteading task in that it doesn't actually require a lot of tools or time, just earth and seeds are needed to grow food. It is so rewarding to grow your own food, you appreciate it much more and it is easier to experience the slow moments of pulling weeds. But in today's society, we are bred to be consumers, to purchase and accumulate the new and cool 'advertised at 15% off' gadget that will make your garden perform so much better, but in order to purchase this tool, you are required to work more hours to afford it.

So, if you dream to be a homesteader and you value and appreciate raising or growing your own food, have the tools to effectively do so. In all aspects of homesteading, from preparing your meals at home to performing vintage homesteading skills which you love to do. Just because you like the simplicity the minimalist lifestyle has to offer, doesn't mean you cannot accumulate what you need to do what you love.

In fact, the lifestyle of minimalism encourages you to make the time and the space in your life for this and certain tools are required to perform the homesteading tasks you want to participate in. However, be mindful of the stuff and the tasks you are accumulating, it's purpose in your life and on your homestead, and is it really necessary for you to live your life the way you choose.

Do you need three varieties of jam or will your favorite recipe made in one afternoon suffice. Grow only what you love to eat. Only keep livestock you will use for nourishment unless it provides bliss.

Although we may own more belongings as a rustic minimalist than that of an urban minimalist in a high rise apartment, we are both living a fulfilling, meaningful life which is our own.

Beginner's Guide to Composting

If you are on a similar road as us, you're homestead dreaming, looking for land to build your homestead or trying to be more self reliant. But, we don't have to wait, we can start homesteading now where ever we are! One way is to start composting your kitchen scraps and yard waste.

What is Composting?

Composting is a practice of turning leftover vegetable matter from your kitchen or manure into compost which is a mixture of decaying organic matter we used to fertilize our gardens. This mixture is made up by gathering plant materials in a pile and letting it decompose with the help or fungi, microorganisms, and aerobic bacteria. Composting is a great addition to any homestead because it offers an excellent nutritional boost to your gardens with little effort on your part. And let's face it, we all create kitchen scraps we could put to use, rather than throwing in the trash, to create compost to feed our vegetable garden for better harvests to eat! That my friends, is permaculture!

Why YOU should be composting!

If you aren't already composting, you are throwing out these valuable resources for healthy plant growth in the trash with a slew of other items that will NEVER break down in a landfill. If you don't have room to have a compost pile outside there are affordable and fun indoor composting systems or community compost programs in place where the plant materials are broken down and residents are able to harvest finished compost for their gardens!

Starting to Compost is as EASY as 1-2-3!

1. Choose the size of your compost pile!

When deciding to compost your kitchen scraps and garden's plant material waste, there are a couple things to keep in mind to ensure your success. Questions to ask yourself are: How much compost do you think your household or homestead can create? Will you be able to supply enough kitchen scraps or manure to your pile to keep the microorganisms active? How much compost do you wish to create to supply your gardens with a nutritional boost for the growing season?

2. Choose the location of your compost pile!

Pick a place for your compost bin that will set you up for success and avoid some nasty repercussions of maintaining a compost pile. Consider placing it close to where you will need your finished compost most, for us that is close to the vegetable garden. It is easy to grab the weeds to throw in the bin as well. Don't place your compost bin next to your home, bugs and other microorganisms are drawn to the decaying material and you don't want that around your home. Be sure to place your compost pile in the sun for warmth, with good air flow to keep the bugs happy and with good drainage to ensure the compost doesn't become water logged.

3. Build, buy or find a compost container!

There are several different types of compost bins. There is a tumbler version that can is on a stand, once you ad your new plant material you just give it a spin! A stand alone bin is simple, where you add your material from the top and harvest from the bottom. You could also get creative like we did {pictured above} and build it out of sticks or some pallet wood but requires you to turn the whole pile with a shovel every once in a while. You don't even NEED a container, just pick a spot in your yard and pile it up! Is handy to have a small container in your kitchen to collect compost!

Now you are ready to begin composting! But wait! You can't throw everything in there!

What you shouldn't throw in the compost!

You can throw all your vegetable and fruit kitchen scraps, I do not suggest throwing in meat, dairy, or cheese. These items can encourage maggots to join in on the compost fun. Yuck!

Money Saving Vintage Skills

Learning to become self reliant has been a fun adventure. Well, I don't want to call it an adventure because it's not like I'm going back to my original ways at the end of the day. It more of a lifestyle change we have progressively been making, slow and steady. {Check out our master plan here!}

I love to learn new things, which is probably why I have been to college three times {thank you to my supportive husband!}. So when we decided to become more self reliant years ago, I was a kid in a candy store, a bookworm in a library, crocheter in a yarn store, or a gardener is a seed store. I could go on here... 

We started with the basics, like learning to make our own bread but really, the possibilities are endless. And, because we've learned all these new skills, we've saved loads of cash!

9 Frugal Homesteading Skills to Learn & Save Cash!

Learn to bake your own daily bread! This may seem like an intimidating task to take on, but with this recipe, baking your own homemade bread is quite easy I imagine we save $1.00 per loaf and with a three carb-monster men, baking our own saves us around $156 a year!

Preparing home cooked meals rather than eating out may look like it costs you more on your grocery bill because you are buying more food for the week but it can easily save you $30 per meal. It seems like a vintage skill in our society because food is now so easily and readily available every where we look. But, home cooked food tastes better, has less crap in it and when you get your children involved, you are giving them priceless knowledge and skills for their future!

Learning handicrafts and life skills we don't often need but outsource from time to time. I'm talking about knitting or crocheting your toques, hats and scarves {yes, I am Canadian and proud}, learning to sew on a button, repair holes in your jeans and hem a pair of pants, especially if you are vertically challenged like myself. 

Growing your own food can save you hundreds of dollars on your grocery bill and is better for your health. This year is our first year growing a vegetable garden and we are keeping track of the amount of food we harvest so we can one day learn to become self reliant. {Get your Harvest Tracker here!}

Canning, preserving and dehydrating your home grown, or even items you pick up at the market that are on sale are a great opportunities to save cash. Sure, this does cost you a little money to invest in a canner and jars, but these are all reusable items that will last you for years to come. It's also romantic to enjoy fruits or vegetables when they aren't season and rewarding to snack on your own dill pickles or strawberry jam!

Enjoy more of your time out of the house and in nature alone will reduce your electricity bill! Playing lawn games like bocce ball, gardening, exploring your neighborhood, spending time with the people you share the community with seem to all be 'out of style' or old fashioned.

Growing and drying your own herbs and medicinal plants or foraging wild plants in your area is a very romantic homesteading skill few practice these days. I am not sure how much we save in a year with our own herbs, but every little bit helps, am I right?

Cutting hair in your household is one you will want to start practicing on little kids before they start caring what their hair looks like. {Are you laughing? I feel like you are laughing at this one, I am!} But, really. The first time I trimmed my husband's hair my sister-in-law yelled in hilarity "What happened to you!?" He really didn't care, and I was committed to learning how to do it, we all laughed and I am dying over here as I write this. Luckily, we had two boys after that, and it got easier! Learning to cut hair, including my own, has saved our family at least $420 a year and investing in a good pair of scissors is worth it!

Repairing and maintaining your vehicle for the easy stuff like oil changes, spark plugs, even gasket replacement has saved us hundreds of dollars over the years. My husband and I aren't particularly handy in the automotive repairing department but you will be amazed at the confidence a good YouTube video, Google search can provide.

More helpful posts, check them out!


Toy Jail Sanity

I am super excited about this possibility of never stepping on Lego again! I know, I know... I have HIGH hopes for this toy jail! I've seen these around town before and after a bedtime full of desperation, I mentioned to the boys, "You know, there are parents out there who ask their kids to clean up, and if they don't, the parents pick it up the stuff and they and keep it!" Gasps! Shocks! and "Awe, man!"

"That sounds like a great idea!" my husband confirmed from the kitchen. He went down to the basement to find a bucket and the boys scrambled to pick up the Lego! I was.. well, speechless for a minute. I have never seen them clean up their mess so fast, with determination and ownership for their Lego. The thought of losing a key piece of Lego, their Lego, well, it just wasn't going to happen.

And, I know some parents are thinking, 'Hey, that's not nice to threaten to have their toys taken away!' But guys, we're desperate, and that S#!T is expensive. We would never throw Lego out! They just have to earn it back with a little good behavior. So, without further ado, meet Toy Jail! {To get yours, keep reading till the end! I'll tell you how to get it!}

How we will use Toy Jail!

We really only ask them to have their room clean before bed. It's a safety precaution for us parents checking in on them at night, for midnight drinks and potty breaks and early in the morning. We are a minimalist family, and the boys have minimal toys but, they do have a lot of Lego. Because we live our lives unplugged, they play hard with Lego all day!

At bedtime, once they have 'finished' cleaning up their room, we will through the room and pick up anything else. The next day, if they can't find a toy or Lego because it is locked up in Toy Jail, they've got to clean up their room. This is sneaky because if they keep their room tidy during the day, it will be easier to clean at bedtime. Sneaky sneaky!

I only refer to cleaning their 'room' because we live in a small space and their toys stay in their room. The living room is for homeschool and quiet time.

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Make Your Own Ginger Ale

Recently I have learned to make my own SCOBY so I have an endless supply of kombucha around the house. But even more recently, I've opted for home brewed ginger ale made from ginger bug. One of our goals in our plan to move off grid, build a small home and homestead is to learn to be more self-reliant. So this is just another step towards our dream; a tasty step.

All About Ginger Bug

You know how we all hear homesteaders say "Chickens are the gateway drug to more livestock"? Well, I kind of feel the same way about Kombucha because once I was able to grow my own SCOBY and a few batches of 'buch, I knew I wanted to try more fermented drinks!

Hibiscus Sweet Tea

We recently hosted a Zero Waste party for our son's seventh birthday. We used recyclable decorations, refused gifts, made our own beverages and snacks! One of the favorites was the Hibiscus Sweet Tea and everyone either asked for an batch or the recipe.

How To Throw A Zero Waste Party

Just a few weeks ago, we had a birthday party for our now SEVEN year old. Seven. It's hard to believe how quickly they grow up. And I know everyone says that but, our lives have always been enthralled with family drama, illness, death of loved ones, moving across the country, and back. The birthdays seem to get closer and closer together. Luckily, our lives have slowed down and we can get back to enjoying our family and focusing on our goals. One of which, is to reduce our household trash. Here is how we threw, our first of many, Zero Waste Party!