Saturday, November 21, 2009

Building the solar dehydrator

A couple years back manthing built us a convection solar dehydrator. We had found some plans for this online and although we didn't want to use the cardboard boxes, decided it was feasible making it out of wood so that it is more permanent.We didn't however have the spare windows at the time to make the chute attachment or the top cover from glass. Instead we used a small section of greenhouse plastic to cover both of those areas. we have used this over two years and the plastic is still doing fine.

The bottom chamber has black plastic on bottom as you can see. there are holes drilled at the bottom and the top of the chamber to allow airflow,as the chamber heats up hot air is forced into the dehydration chamber where it circulates through and goes out the vent in the top cover to the trays.

We currently have 3 sets of trays to stack on one another to dry fruits and veggies. I dont know how much higher we could feasibly go and still have the convection needed to dry properly.The food trays are lined with screen and the lowest is about 6 inches above the bottom of the dehydrating chamber.

this project took about 5 hours, We got the plans from this site,

The other plan we considered was this one,
we just felt that the one we made will be more efficient.

Photo set showing the building process

A very good bunch of articles on dehydrating

a couple questions I have had asked of me in the past
I'm planning on building a solar food dehydrator this year to make my own food for backpacking and other activities where weight and space are not an option. I have a couple of questions on this topic.

1. I have a pressure canner. How does dehydrating compare to canning, besides weight and space? i.e. does it keep as long ,etc?

2. After I dehydrate it is vacuum sealing a good idea?

3. I was told solar dehydration would not work in humid climates such as Georgia. I live south of Atlanta. My personal opinion is that's not true, if you have air flow.

My replies

1. dehydrating takes lots less space, is a lot less weight and last as long if not longer than canned stuff. For hiking etc dehydrating is ideal. Nothing can really beat it . Making hot, good for you meals from dehydrated veggies is simple and there is a lot you can do with them. It doesnt just have to be soups etc. I make stir fried rices and such quite often with our veggies. Throw them in with noodles or ramen and add a bit of meat. Insta-meal

2. If you are planning for long term storage it is a good idea. If it is just for one season to another of preserving, it isn't necessary unless you want too. I dont vac seal ours, just throw in a ziplock and use a straw to get the air out and things stay good from one harvest until the next.

3. poppycock. It works fine and i am up in north georgia in the katuah bio region. If you know the area , you know what our rainfall amounts are here a year... If not , we are just under rain forest amounts lol.The solar oven is actually a good way to dehydrate. If you have one built already can just make shelves and leave the lid open. If it is an open cooker just throw the stuff on a screen and dry them. Ours works very well. Most stuff drys in one day and on the rare occasion it takes more than one day, just bring whatever it is you are dehydrating in for the night. Pay attention to when rains are coming and you shouldnt have a problem. Just put the dehydrator where the sun is good and on it.. Indians and pioneers n such simply set what they were drying in the sun each day. It worked for them just fine... Tomatoes and bananas seem to be the hardest to dry proper. It just take a bit of trial and error on them. The high water content in the maters makes them a bit harder to dry. Romas and paste tomato are the best option for dehydrating.. Bananas , the sugar content makes them a bit awkward but it does work too...

Growing tobacco 2009

Last winter when it was announced new taxes were being placed on roll your own tobacco we ordered a sufficient quantity to get us through until we could learn to grow our own or because of crop failure having to abruptly quit.

After doing a bit of research and reading up on it we decided that it was something we should be able to accomplish without too much hassle. So we we set about ordering seeds we settled on using the seedman. The seeds through there are a bit expensive but we had quick service and very good seed germination. We also joined a site on growing your own tobacco. This site was and is quite helpful for beginners.

Here is a photo tutorial of the tobacco growing process. In the photos I give a basic description of the tobacco growing process . This is just our experience and what has worked for us .

some of our thoughts on growing tobacco

It is a lot more work than we had ever imagined.

It requires regular care and maintenance.

It requires a fair bit of room to grow any quantity of smoke. From 3-5 oz of smoking tobacco per plant is all they yield.

It is quite a hardy plant, we left a couple plants out to see what happened with frost and they are still growing and making flowers.

Working with tobacco is a sticky gooey process and tobacco is a poison. Keep this in mind when handling.

Tobacco and tomatoes do NOT do well anywhere close to one another, the risk of tobacco mosaic is great.

Although tobacco is one of the best pesticides you can use, it has plenty of its own pests and issues.

When drying tobacco has a distinct odor to it.

Tobacco can be grown as an ornamental and can be grown as a container plant.

It is a nutrient hog and loves hard wood ashes.

Growing your own tobacco and smoking it is nothing like buying pre rolled cigarettes. I do not know if it is because of all the chemicals in brand name smokes or what but we do not have the cigarette cravings like we used to.The smokers cough has all but disappeared as well since we went from brand name to roll your own to grow our own.

Keep in mind if you grow your own tobacco you will then need something to smoke out of. Papers can get expensive even though they are cheaper than cigarettes, so keep this in mind for the future if you grow your own . Manthing has made us a couple of pipes to smoke from for times when we are sitting around relaxing and smoking. Papers on the other hand work much better for when up and doing.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A bit more on the land

Without going into to to much detail on the land here, I will try and give folks a bit of a better idea of what we are working with.

We have just under 15 acres of rugged mountain terrain in the northern bits of Ga.Our land is just out of the Cohutta wilderness area in the southern Appalachians. The land is at about 1900 foot elevation, which to some folks aint much but to us its a mountain. We also live in what is known as the katuah bio region, which amongst other things means we have a lot of precipitation. Often times the precipitation comes in large quantities in short periods of time, luckily it is generally in the form of rain . We are in the south but we get winter weather. We get much of the same type of weather as the north eastern part of the country, we simply do not get it for the extremes or for the length of time and thankfully we dont get much snow . We also do not get the extreme heat of being in the south, 90 degrees where we are is fairly uncommon.

Our property is long, skinny and is full of ridges and hollers. The largest flat spot is approximately 250 x 75 and the next largest is about 50x100. All other flat or flattish spots are few and far between. Of the 15 acres there is approximately five cleared for shack, gardens and pasture. The rest is wooded. One bonus about our land is we have some really nice scenery in a small area and have some very nice camp sites on the property. The area is also pretty quiet most of the time since there is no one behind us and we are in a sparsely populated area to begin with. A few years back we decided to not camp elsewhere any longer because there was no place within a few hours of driving distance quieter than home.

In the link of photos of the land you will see some of the current structures and lay out of the property .All of the photos have been take here on our property. With the exception of the main shack everything here has been made from either resources from the land itself or from recycled materials. Any structures you may see in the woods have been built without the use of nails or any other practices resulting in injury to the trees. We think we have a beautiful piece of land that we call home.

photos of the land

gardening year round and eating with the seasons

Someone suggested a list of what we plant here n how we preserve it all in order to have food supplies for the entire year. Much of this is taken from an old post I made on this subject but I will bring it up to date.

fresh over preservation
I will be the first to tell you that for the most part I do not enjoy canning foods and although dehydrating is great as are other preservation methods, I personally would much rather eat fresh foods. To eat fresh foods year round can be a bit of a challenge especially to those in extreme cold climates or to those that have limited space but we can all contribute to our menus immensely just by using a bit of imagination and ingenuity. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to grow atleast some of your own food and often times given the right set of circumstances we can grow all our food or dang near all of it. Another thing to consider when using fresh over preservation is the overall economic benefits. Soil to table even with a bit of lighting help is much cheaper than canning lids or freezer electricity.

When we grow our own foods we realize we have Mother Nature to contend with, therefore I find it important to be able to grow in many different conditions and environments in order to hopefully ensure that I will have a viable food source at all times. Don't get me wrong, we preserve plenty of food as well for just in case, when we are in a hurry or when there simply isn’t enough fresh food to supply our needs. We just find fresh tastier, simpler and overall suits us and our needs.

eating with the seasons
To garden year round and make it worth the effort of the work you must learn to eat with the seasons. One must learn that because we think tomatoes are in season year round doesnt make it so, same goes for salads. It means repetitive meals because your cucumbers did really well but all your corn molded. It means being flexible with what you are willing to eat as well as becoming primarily planning meals on whats being harvested rather than planning meals around meats .

We are at an advantage to some given our location, we are in zone 6 a-b so we dont have super harsh winters and we have a fairly long growing season. The shack was built to be passive solar therefore, the loft is situated so that it gets a good 5-6 hours of sunlight a day through glass doors all through the winter. To get the plants through the winter doldrums and to give them a bit more light we use a cheap one fixture cfl light and most things do quite well. We have a small greenhouse which adds to our growing abilities. We do not use a heat source in it other than water barrels. To be able to use it all winter long I simply make small greenhouses or hoop houses with in the green house during the cold spells. Our summer growing season goes from may 1 until late October .Early spring crops go in the ground late January to mid February and late spring crops go in the ground mid march. Fall season crops start going in mid July and i continue planting until the first of September. For all intent purposes both manthing and I are retired so this is now our full time occupation. Everything we do here revolves around our survival long term with the likelihood that neither of us will ever have a "good paying" job again.

Being 100% self sustaining is the ultimate goal but one we will never completely reach I am sure. There are some things that we can not raise or grow here or that would just be simpler to continue purchasing until we could no longer afford it and then we just learn do with out or how to make up for it through foraging or networking with others. There are some things that so long as we have a means to buy them it isnt worth the time to grow with just two of us to do the work. At this point food wise we are about 90% sustainable. We buy very basic staples and nothing more other than the occasional splurge for some gmo goodness of prepackaged cookies. Our biggest issue right now and for always will be critter food. Sugars are another area we are currently slack in. If we can conquer those two things in the near future we will be satisfied with what we have done with our little place.

Sustainability also requires that every aspect of what you do intertwines with the other aspects of what you do on your place. From scraps to fats from animals to manure it all intertwines. I dare say it has to in order to be successful at becoming sustainable. Literally nothing is waste and everything has a purpose for future use.

Another part of sustainability is integrating meat supplies into what you grow. The critters are by far our biggest expense here, but we are working towards weaning of that as well. Compost is our soil fixer upper, scraps go to chickens rabbits n goats, weeds and such are all fed back to critters. Worms are composters and feed for chickens. Any fats from slaughtered animals are used for our fats, soaps etc. All our animals have jobs here including the dogs and all our pets become food or are used for their product (except the dogs). Each critter here is here because it fits with what we want to do and is within our budget. What we have now is not what we had five years ago. sustainability is ever evolving and you don’t just wake up one morning n decide you are going to be sustainable

All foods are either eaten fresh or preserved through canning, freezing, dehydration, drying, brining, fermenting or curing. If we have too much of something we give it a way or trade n barter for something we could use or need. (very few foods can not be preserved in some fashion) If we still have too much it becomes critter food. We have basically become bunny eaters. We have found they are the most economical and best producing critter for our situation. We still have the goats but we use the milk and sell or trade kids. The chickens are around for egg production instead of eating. I find chicken killing to be one of the nastiest of homestead chores. We have raised a hog and a steer in the past but feed would be an issue at his point in time.

the gardens
We do not have a huge garden but all total we have somewhere between two and three acres of tilled land. Most of our gardens are in double dug beds that have been terraced out of hillside or in make shift raised beds we have built Our only modern garden implement is a tiller that can only make it in to some of the beds. Very little of our land here is flat so we do what we have to do to get by. We have three larger traditional style beds in various locations on the property.

I experiment with different plants, different conditions of soil and different methods of gardening. I push limits of when things should grow and what climates things are supposed to grow in. I also forage when possible for food, collecting acorns for flour, eating weeds, flowers, mushrooms fruits and other nuts. We grow about 70 kinds of herbs for either medicinal or culinary use.
That said here is a basic rundown of how n what we do here... this list is by no means all that we plant but gives a basic idea of how we do it.. Also note that what works for us will not work for everyone .

Early spring crops
lettuces, spinach, turnips, greens of all sorts, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli peas , potatoes , onions and carrots are all planted as early in the late winter as we can. By late february or mid march these are all in the ground and growing or in the greenhouse and started. Tomatoes are also started in the greenhouse at this point. Many of these are also still growing in the ground all through the winter months (from previous fall)using small makeshift hoop houses or covers to protect them on real cold nights. Many of these can take frost and not be damaged.

Spring crops (no more frost)
beans of all sorts(dry n green ) , more lettuces, more greens , beets, tomatoes, squashes of all sorts, cucumbers, corn , grains of various sorts, melons , taters ,carrots, peppers are all planted in the ground. I keep planting until i have no space for anything anywhere. If one planting goes bad for whatever reason i replant with either that same crop or perhaps something different depending on how many times i have replanted that product. As the early spring crops are harvested and preserved or eaten, I plant something new in its place immediately. Very few plots of gardens are left empty for more than a day or two. As potatoes are harvested and put away, I plant punkins , squashes, beans , corn and melons, sunflowers on up to the first of July. (any thing with a 120 day or less grow season ) This gives most of our crops a two time bountiful harvest for not only eating while in season but for late preservation on through the winter months

Summer crops
About the first or second week of july, i begin the seeds for the late summer plantings in the green house. More cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts are all begun from seed in the greenhouse for transplant mid august into the ground. As the summer crops begin dying back I prepare the soil, add amendments etc and get the beds ready for the next crop to go in come first to mid august I also throw in a few small beds of short season growers like greens and beets, radishes and the like so that we have a continuous supply for the remaining summer months. I take clones from a couple tomatoes and peppers and put a couple back in the ground and a couple of each for containers for late season harvest.

Late summer /fall
All greenhouse babies are moved to the gardens and any other greens, lettuces, radishes, carrots etc etc are going in the ground. most of the garden from spring summer has been harvested and preserved and things begin to slow down and begin work for the following season.

I begin planting the indoor loft garden after most the outdoor plants are in the ground. I take cuttings from tomatoes to get them a better start and I keep planting up in the loft until manthing refuses to haul anymore soil filled containers up the ladder. The loft garden generally has warmer weather plants in it. This winter I have various greens and lettuces, onions, carrots, garlic, a few varieties of beans, mini zucchini, okra, tomatoes, peas, cucumber, radish and sweet tater starts for next years garden.

pictures of the gardens

Thursday, November 19, 2009

bake day

We do about once a month baking while we still can afford electricity. Using wood fired ovens is wonderful in most every way but they do take a good while to heat up and use a fair bit of wood for fuel. With just two of us here now we dont use all that much bread or other baked yummies, well that's a lie we eat alot of snackies we bake . In fact i know we eat way too many but while i can have them and afford to make them we will have plenty...

Any how,

I am going to do a play by play of a bake day schedule, with any luck i may even figure out how to put pictures in my posts..

7 am start wiggling out of bed n waking up

7:30 coffee on and comps up doing the work looking and news crawling for the morning

8:30 tunes of the day pulled up and set on play list (today is blind melon and traffic).. Manthing off to make fires in both the cook top and under the oven . He also begins heating me some water, puts a kettle of tea water on and gets my griddle started to heat .

8:45 I go and pull the starters of mixes out of the indoor unused oven to begin mixing and kneading . We always make a huge batch of pancakes , johnny cakes and tortillas on the griddle since we have it on.I will also begin prepping the rest of what will be cooked today.

9:45 breads are all raising first mess of dishes is washed and am off to make the griddle cooked foods

10:30 All the griddle foods are cooked, breakfast served. I put a pot of rice on to cook as well as a big pot of pintos. As soon as my dish water heats i will put a large pot of taters.

12noon I put a root veggie dish in the oven and an italian chicken dish to slow roast as the oven finishes getting up to temp. The bread loaves are raising as are the rolls. I decide to make apple acorn muffins and begin chopping the apples and mixing until it seems like it should taste good when cooked. I make a meatless meatloaf of our left over lentils and since i have a bit of enchilada sauce left over from mid week decide it will be a mexican meatless loaf. Work on round two of the dishes and refill the water bucket to heat again for round three of dishes and bathing water for later.

1:30 figure i better go feed my critters since i had neglected them all day. Manthing took measurements for a new cage for meat babies. We have a herd of ten ready to butchers running free in chicken run but thats a whole other post. I am now done using the stove top side of the griddle and the remainder of the afternoon will be spent simply baking.

2:30 The first batch of muffins is out and first round of the rolls is in. I should have 3 rounds of bread and muffins, cake and then will finish with meatloaf and baked taters.

Dishes are pretty well caught up and the major rush of baking day is done. For the next 4 hours or so i just go insert and remove stuff as needed. Still have the indoor garden plants to water, evening chores and wood to bring in before dark hits .

4pm One batch of bread and one of muffins , cake , meatloaf and baked taters still left to go.

6pm I put the meatloaf and baked potatoes in the oven. The end of my day of baking. The oven is cooling down now so it will take the meal a bit longer than if it was at 350 degrees. I fix our dinner plates of the root veggies and chicken. I package everything that has been baked and either put in the fridge for use over the next week or so or i out it in the freezer until needed. Time to finish dishes for the day then sit down and enjoy a cup of hot rice drink.

8pm. Everything is now done and out of the oven and so ends another day of baking

pictures of baking day

the food supply

When it comes to food preps, storage and diet we are probably a little bit different than most folks are. Because we are trying for sustainability we have altered not only what we eat but the times of the year we eat it .

In order to minimize what we preserve for long term storage we have had to learn to eat what comes out of the garden and eat it when it does as much as possible. This has meant a huge change for my carnivorous self. I hated my veggies right up until we made the switch and now i can eat almost any of them, most of them happily although green beans are one thing I simply have not learned to eat.

Often times this means some really repetitive meals at certain times of the year. Of course creativity in cooking skills comes in handy so as not to get tired of having the same things. I have learned that there are at least 278 ways to fix zucchini and at least that many ways to fix potatoes.

Because we eat with the seasons in the garden and what comes out of the gardens some other things have changed as well. Lettuces and salads for us are primarily a winter and very early spring meal for us. Late fall is also when we indulge in salads here. Summer months many of our salad fixings simply do not do well. Potatoes and various dry beans are a staple here. One or the other is served at most every meal, We can get two good crops of taters in a year and I use drying beans and peas as filler crops all summer long so we always have a supply of them coming in from early spring until late fall.

We have also become primarily vegetarian. We do raise rabbits for meat since they are by far the most economical of farm critters we have found and we also raise a few hens and some goats. The goats are used for milk and product rather than meat and we sell off or trade the kids. We do always have a few on hoof if we have a hankering for goat but rarely slaughter. The chickens we use primarily for eggs and manure production.

We raise about half or a little more of the animal feed here on the land.This is our next big goal with the place is to raise that sustainability.With our terrain and minimal usable land it is a distant goal at this point. We may eventually choose to do away with the goats altogether but we do so like our fresh cheeses and such that for the time being we choose to keep them on.

The dogs are by far our largest expense here. Two well over 100 pound dogs can eat some food.

We do prep and stock pile some foods. Being from blizzard land it was just something i grew up with and we choose to continue to this day. It just sort of makes sense. We do not have hoards and hoards of cans and jars or secret rooms of stash boxes. Our preps we have on hand are simple and only cover the basic staples needed for survival for a fair amount of time. We instead depend more on the ability to grow the majority of our foods here on the land and we have learned to forage for a fair bit as well. We have worked foraged foods slowly into our diets over the last two years. We eat lots and lots of weeds in the spring, berries through the summer and acorns and other nuts are a staple in the kitchen. Kudzu is a fine plant contrary to what many think of it at this point in time and many many plants can be used in teas.

We garden 4 seasons of the year here , three of which are outdoors or in the greenhouse or cold frames, hoop houses etc. Winter time i set up a small growing area in the upper room of the shack. It has a wall of windows and keeps us in fresh greens, tomatoes and other herbs and veggies all winter long. I keep some plants going all winter and move them out side as quick as i am able too. We also use some permaculture growing practices and i do a bit of guerrilla gardening as well as just small random plantings in the general area. We save all our own seed and each year i try and buy a few new experimental types of seed. I also grow about 80 types of herbs either for culinary or medicinal use.

I also dehydrate and can quite a bit and we have a root cellar for storage of crops. We have a cool and/or hot smoker on the land and can preserve meat for long term

By doing things in the manner i described above, we are able to spend less than 20 dollars a week on all of our food and other needs. We generally spend an equal amount on preps and supplies we may need down the road while we can still afford to do so . For everything we need for a month here from gas, to chain saw oil, to canning lids and etc, etc we spend approximately 200- 250 a month. With all of our other monetary need we can live on 700 or so a month at this point. If we had to live on less we could simply cut the phone and power and cut it down to under 500 and be able to survive pretty comfortably and with minimal disruption..

Without knowing what lay ahead in the future we felt we needed to learn to live in a minimalistic manner before things got any worse. we wanted to ensure that we could cut back, live comfortably and yet keep far enough ahead of the game to be able to prepare for whatever may come down the path toward us. At this point the future is looking pretty grim when it comes to the economy and employment. It is very comforting as well as stress relieving to know that whatever may come atleast for the next couple years we are ok..

We have intentions of one day having a small produce stand along with herbs, medicinal lotions, soaps etc etc. Each year we thing we will have enough to be able to have a little road side stand unfortunately it hasnt played out that way as yet. Something always fails us and we need to make up for it in other crops to be able to sustain the life we live. I am sure that over time as we expand and continue the learning process great spirit will provide for us much as he has done up til now.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

the basics of the homestead

Bein backwards as we are(we cant help it, manthing is polish ) we began our big foray into homesteading by building a log cabin on the property. There is the main shack that was originally meant to be a barn but because of circumstance became the house.. Hmmmm.....Lets start by starting from the proper beginning, how the property became ours...

the story behind the property
Manthings daddy and his wife bought the place back in the 80s. He hauled a camper up here and began working on his retirement homestead and was building the barn when he fell ill. Because of his health issues he turned the barn into a crude small house.Being that the area was very rural at that time there were no building codes , as such the house is built as if there were no codes.

Fast forward a few years and manthing had the opportunity to buy the land because his fathers health was too poor for the conditions here on the land... He has been here full time since 1992. I joined him in 2002..

backward beginnings
When I first came down we lived in a camper that we had pulled onto the property because his ex wife was living in the house(economic reasons and health issues... to make a long story short).
We used to sit around the campfires and picnic tables chatting before dinner in the evenings with folks that were passing through or stayin for a spell.. One evening we began talking of building a cabin as a joke more or less and the feller here at the time came up with plans.. Little by little our stick cabin became a 12x14 authentic log cabin with a loft that is 12x7.

We quickly learned while building it that had we been true pioneer homesteaders we would have died our first winter on the land The cabin also took over 2 yrs to build but we did take a year long break.. We are lazy hippies , remember During this time we either stayed in the camper or camped out and built another out door kitchen with mud oven in another area of the property.

Once the cabin was built we needed an out door kitchen and then a new outhouse needed to be dug since the original was full.. Manthing and i then moved to the cabin for a couple years and only passed by the main shack for coffee in the morning and showers on occasion..

For economic reasons when his exwife moved out in 2007 we moved back to the main shack. It didnt make sense to have power, burn a fire in the house and stay in the cabin . It simply made sense to come down here and use the cabin for our getaway weekends in the woods .

the shack
Now the shack is a simple domicile to begin with and because of where we live and our lifestyle it is bare bones when it comes to decorating, furnishings and its inhabitants.. We dont do curtains, we dont do much furniture, dont do tv,no cell phones, no cable, no play stations, dvd players, no beds, no air conditioning, no makeup n jewelry, mirrors or clocks.. There are lots of canning jars, seed tables seed containers, other containers i use for dry stuff, lots of books and magazines ,, drums and dust!

water and sewage
The house has no well or city water system. All of our water comes from the rain. The cistern is a 1500 gallon block made room with gutters running into it.. We use rain barrels as needed and recycle grey water as needed. All of our drinking water comes from a spring on the property that we go to and fill up jugs weekly There is a spring fed pond if we need to haul water for any reason and there is a small seasonal creek thru the back portion of the land.. with just two of us here these days, the cistern gives us plenty of water, however because of past issues with drought and more people here we are very conservative with what we use.. Conservative to the tune of about 150 gallons a week for all of our needs and animals needs .

For showering we use a solar shower bag in an old claw foot tub with a shower curtain around it. For dishes we use dish pans and of course for bathroom needs we use the outhouse.. Oh and for laundry i use an old wash tub , plungers and a mop wringer.. We did actually use our plumbing until last summer 2008 but the septic was full and it was going to cost no less than 600 to pump so we decided to switch to the aforementioned.

fuel for heat and cooking
Much like the plumbing, last spring(2008) the propane needed filling and it was when the gas prices spiked. It was over 400 bux for a little bit over 100s gallons. We decided then that it was the last of our propane deliveries.. So we built an oven with a grill cook top out of an old wood cook stove and brick and that became our newest kitchen ..All of our cooking is over wood. we also heat solely with wood in the winter and i use the wood stove for most of our cooking in the winter months..

Keep in mind that we could afford to fix or remedy all the empty / full stuff. We simply choose not too. We decided back in 2007 that we really needed to reign in unnecessary spending and conserve what money we had. We knew manthing was going to become unemployed in the near future. we knew we worked in construction and when it went away it was going away for a very long time.. We didnt n still dont know how long or bad this depression is going to last. We also decided that we could very well be sent back in time to live in a sense and that we were going to be as prepared and comfortable with frugal to the extreme living before we needed to be..

We use the sun as much as we can here. From dehydrating to lighting, to drying clothes and warming water. We use as much of the energy from it as we can.

In the last two years we have halved our electricity usage. We do not have solar but are looking into a small system to run a couple lights and small radio. We could however live off grid without solar if need be. A day of hard core canning and we could have the freezer emptied. One of our goals this year is to eliminate the freezer entirely.

We still have telephone and internet, something that is almost necessary in order to job hunt these days. The net is also our only connection to the outside world. The phone is our only means to connect to the net. If things continue to look gloomy in the world and if needed the net would be the next thing we axe from our life..

We go to town and buy supplies one time a month. If it wasnt for having to buy animal feed we would cut that back to every other month. Town is honestly the most stressful thing in my life although it is only a two hour ordeal. We do cheat and take blankets to the laundrymat on occasion. They are not fun to wash by hand..

the story of us

my bio
I was born on a small homestead in upstate NY. we had approximately 5 acres and raised goats, cows, horses, sheep, chickens and a whole lot of garden. The homestead was moms idea, as she was coming of age during the summer of love she came to the realization city life was not for her and moved out to the small town where I was born. Knowing nothing about any pets other than dogs n cats, everything was cute to her and she needed it. Needless to say,I was born right in the beginning stage of her farming days on what was known as the "funny farm". (yes it was a rather funny little farm). Growing up I learned the basics of animals, raising for fun n profit , for food and product. I saw the life and death cycles and the hard work and joy it brought. I did the 4H thing and fairs, suffered in the freezing cold and sweated bringing in the hay . I decided it was too tough a life. As most teenagers do, I ran from the farm life .

I found myself going to nursing school, had a couple kids, married , divorced and quickly realized that animals were more my forte. Circumstances led me back to a small family run farm. Over the years i worked my way up through the ranks, went to more schooling and seminars and got to see gov't testing on animals (joy joy) . Over time the farm grew into more of a factory type farm (milking 1600) and after 12 years and differing views on farming , I left.It was time to embark on some new adventures.

the story of us
In 2002 , I came to the mountains of north GA and began homesteading here with the manthing whom i had met on the internet way back in late 1994-5. We have about 15 acres nestled into the northern part of the Ga mtns of a small community just on the edge of the Cohutta Wilderness on the border of Tn, Ga and NC. The wilderness is literally our back yard.

Our acreage is very challenging , a 4 wheel drive is almost always needed to get in and flat spots are hard to come by. Most of the land is wooded with about 5 acres actually carved out for homesteading. The woodlots are managed for firewood and we utilize as much of our surroundings in our daily life as possible while keeping harmony with our earth and surroundings. . we try to keep our environment as it was meant to be taken care of, we dont believe we own the land but are simply caretakers of it for the time being.

Currently we have 6 goats , 6 hens and two breeder doe rabbits, a buck and piles of babies. We also employ two dogs in the protection of both animals and ourselves. All of our animals are raised here for a purpose, none of them are raised for just the fun of having a pet.They either have a job, produce something we use or will become meat.

In addition to the animals we also have a couple acres of veggie gardens and several herb beds. We grow , change and learn with each season and will keep on doing so in order to diversify and make improvements upon what we are doing here. Our goal is to be as sustainable as possible in the most primitive means as possible yet still live comfortably.

Until near three years ago (Jan 2007) this was just a past time or hobby type of thing for us and we opened our doors to traveling folk who needed a place to stay while we both worked full time. They were to help a couple hours a day for room , board etc. . unfortunately more often than not most people simply do not get what simple living is, walking softly on the earth or what the meaning of work really is . It became more work for us to continue bringing people in that in was worth.

As we saw work (new home construction) slowing down and we began paying a bit more attention to the world around us, we opened our eyes and saw that we needed to take things a bit more seriously as we were likely to be out of work eventually and this lil bit of heaven could be our saving grace. This is when we really went to expanding gardens, growing grains and growing year round in our quest to be sustainable. Food wise we have gone from about 20% to about 90% in the last few years. If we were to sit and figure in all things , we would be about 80% sustainable.. We never expect to reach 100% because something we simply cant raise or choose not too.

The biggest lesson I personally have learned through the years is that everything ties in together in some way, shape or form. Animals, gardens , living on the earth , environmentalism, you name it . It is all a very precise balancing act that can not be taught in books or otherwise. It is something you truly have to live n learn.