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Young Man Seeks Homesteading – Part 2

Here’s the second part of the email Q&A I’ve been having with Daniel, a young man from South Africa with aspirations for homesteading. Read part 1 of the conversation here.

Overcoming Loneliness

Daniel: I wanted to ask you some questions that I haven’t been able to find answers to yet and I was really hoping that you could give me some insight . . .  You mention that you were young (23) when you first moved out to your land. It’s something that I have often thought about but taking that mental leap has not happened to me yet. I still have fear that I would be isolating myself too much and I’d get lonely – did you have those same feelings and how did you overcome them?

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FREE DOWNLOAD: Replacing Wooden Tool Handles

Most people have at least one hammer, axe, hatchet or other striking tool with a wooden handle, and sooner or later all handles like these need to be replaced.  Learn how with my free downloadable report and you’ll be a pro at the job in no time.

If this report looks useful to you, there’s lots more where this good stuff came from. Sign up for my newsletter at the form top right and I’ll keep you posted on new content as I publish it.  After all, replacing wooden tool handles is only one part of rural self-reliance.

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COUNTRY THOUGHTS: Frenzied Cattle & Mental Health

The transition between winter and summer has been especially quick this year on Manitoulin Island, and the cattle grazing season has begun again. Cattle are being trucked and walked to pastures everywhere on the Island, including the 45 acres of fenced fields we have at our homestead. We’ve been grazing this land for more than 25 years, but something unprecedented happened this past week with cattle – something that got me thinking about how people sometimes behave.

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VIDEO POST: Spring Tilling & Fresh Carrot Harvest

honda_tiller_closeLarge, fresh garden carrots in May? Yes, that’s what we’ve got at our place as I roto-till the soil, despite that fact that it’s been 8 months since anything could grow in our garden. It’s been a really long winter on Manitoulin, and the spring is the wettest in a couple of decades. But the land has dried out enough to allow a little tilling between rains, and to allow an unusual kind of carrot harvest. Watch the video and see for yourself. Continue reading

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VIDEO POST: Easier Water System Priming

water system primingWater System Priming Made Easy

Seasonal water systems must have their intake lines filled with water in a process called priming. This is often a hassle because it’s difficult to get all that water into the pipe in the usual way through a small hole in the top of the pump. That’s why I created an easier option that’s simple and works every time. Once you’ve tried this method of water system priming, you’ll wonder why you struggled so long without it. Watch my screencast to see.

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HOMESTEADING CLOTHESLINES OFFER USEFUL BEAUTY

homesteading clotheslineOf all the ways to use electricity, drying clothes has to be the most wasteful. The average dryer uses as much electricity as 35 to 55 one hundred watt light bulbs burning brightly, even though clothes dry just fine electricity-free. All you need is a good homesteading clothesline. I built my first outdoor line 25 years ago, and it worked well, even with all the laundry generated by a couple of kids reared on cloth diapers. But during that time I also noticed things about the design that could have been better. What you see here is clothesline version 2.0.  

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VIDEO POST: Choosing a Router Table

router table trimI’ve always found that the more I can do directly for myself and my family, the happier and better off I am. This goes for everything from growing a garden to building a house, and success eventually comes down to tools.  I especially like what I call “foundational tools”. These are things that let you take raw materials and turn them into finished products, and a woodworking router table is a classic example . . .

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VIDEO POST: Maple Syrup on Manitoulin Island

homesteading maple syrup

A bucket of fresh maple syrup right off the fire at Maple Ridge Farm, Manitoulin Island, Canada

Manitoulin is an island of diversity. There are farms and forests and limestone plains and sections of deep, rich soil. There are also most than 100 clean lakes right on the island itself, plus different kinds of forests. The island is blessed with pockets of good maple stands, and for more than a century people have been making maple syrup here each spring. Most operations are small and simple, but there are some larger, more higher-tech installations and a new one just opened this spring. Watch the video I shot this past Saturday at Maple Ridge Farm, the work of Brian Bainborough. He’s got a brand new maple syrup facility and it also happens to be certified organic.

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VIDEO POST: Count-Down to Grandparenthood

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Katherine on July 27, 2013 just before we drove to her wedding in our 24-year-old homestead truck. Nine months later Mary and I sit ready to make another historic drive to be with Katherine at her place when she makes us grandparents.

As life’s milestones go, becoming a grandfather is one of the biggest. Perhaps not as big as becoming a dad, but certainly right up there.  And any day now Mary and I will move into the category of grandparents. Our bags our packed for the pivotal phone call to travel to Katherine’s house for her home-based, water birth, and sitting in a  limbo state like this is just the thing to get me thinking.

Katherine married her high school sweetheart, Paul, last July (2013) in a small-town stone church, and we’ve just enjoyed our last weekend visit with them before she gives birth.  Katherine is  19 now, and while it’s a pretty radical thing to get married, start a family and devote one’s life to being a stay-at-home mother and homemaker at such a young age, it wasn’t always so. Human biology and eons of human experience see nothing strange about Katherine’s choice, as out of step as it is with 21st century North America. Perhaps I’m imagining things, but is the pendulum swing back towards this sort of thing? I think it might be, at least among homestead types like us . . .

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TECH REPORT: Deck Stains That Really Work

decks

A furniture-grade deck finish is one of the things you’ll learn to apply with this report.

Most deck finishes on the market fail in 12 to 18 months. Some don’t even last that long. That’s why so many distressed homeowners email me for help understanding why their deck finishes never seem to last.  In fact, deck finishes gone bad are  the single largest issue I help homeowners deal with. In every case the solution begins with using the right kind of deck finish in the right way. That’s what my free downloadable Deck Finishing Product list is all about.

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PROJECT PLANS: Homestead Produce Crate

I designed and built the crates you see here back in the mid-1990s, and they continue to work really well. You can load them up in the garden, then carry them to the root cellar and stack them up to four-high. Crates like these work much better than permanently installed root cellar bins, and you can use them for other jobs, too. Click “Continue reading” for free downloadable plans and building instructions.

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Simple, Cheap & Beautiful Exterior Wall Siding

homesteading wallsiding

Interlocking asphalt shingles during installation on the walls of Steve’s workshop. Destined to be covered later with brick or stone, Steve calls these shingles “long-term temporary”, with about a 30- or 40-year lifespan.

Simple, attractive, inexpensive and long-lasting. These are the words that best describe my experiences using  interlocking windlock asphalt roof shingles as exterior siding. I’ve written about this before, and  reader wrote in just now for more details.  He writes . . .

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Add Light and Air to Your Homestead House

homestead skylight

Skylights might seem pretty fancy for a homestead house, but why endure dark, dingy, stuffy rooms when openable skylights make such a difference?

Skylights bring more nature into your home, and that’s why I like them so much. After all, how doesn’t like more sunlight, fresher air and a more visible connection to the outdoors? These are the benefits that skylights deliver, and they can make a huge difference to anyone’s sense of well-being. What most people don’t fully realize is how this technology has improved over the last five years. The advances are huge.

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Homesteading Test

homesteading tent

This is the tent I woke up in on that first black morning on the homesteading property. Looking back on it now, these were good times, but it was hard to see then. Fear and overwhelment and uncertainty held sway.

I woke up with the rising sun on the morning of Thursday May 15, 1986 in a tent pitched on our homestead property. It was my first morning on the land, I was there by myself, and it was one of the most sharply depressing moments of my life. It was all I could do to stop myself from running away from the crazy venture I’d got myself into.  All of this is important when you realize how wrong my feelings were at the time. Beware of feelings, as you’ll see.

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Build Better Wood Piles

homesteading round wood piles

Stacking firewood in round piles is faster, the wood dries better and round piles are more stable if they’re made right.

Do you heat with wood? Would you like to? Wood storage is a key part of the venture and for the last three years we’ve been stacking our wood in round, outdoor piles. It’s the best method I’ve seen so far, and after visiting these piles about twice a day for five months now I’ve got some insights for you.

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5 Homesteading Questions

homesteading chicken coop build

Four-year-old Joseph helping to build our portable chicken house in 2002. This same house is still working well today.

Do you feel an attraction to homesteading, but don’t even know the right questions to ask, let alone where to find the right answers? That’s the situation of a man named Mark who contacted me  yesterday, and I suspect there are a lot of other wanna-be homesteaders like him out there, too. So here are the top five questions you need to start thinking about as you’re deciding what your own homestead life might look like.

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Pointless Homestead Work

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Our first homestead accommodation, early fall 1986. It took several months of pointless hard work to realize that priorities are more important than enthusiam.

It’s easy to let enthusiasm get the better of you when it comes to managing your time and priorities on your homestead, but getting this side of things right is key. What I didn’t realize early on was how much pointless hard work a guy from the city can do before he learns to discern what work really matters and what work is pretty much a waste of time. Going off on useless tangents is the biggest danger that any beginning homesteader faces, and my first couple of months on the land included some memorable waste-of-time, false-priority follies:

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Homesteading and Emotions

Homesteading disappointments

One of our prized, ancient Maiden’s Blush apple trees knocked down after nearly 100 years of giving great apples. Some of the hardest homesteading challenges are the emotional ones.

Do you really want to succeed with your homesteading dream? There are some vital things you need to understand, and the most important have nothing to do with the practical side of self-reliance. My first days on the land are a classic example of what you need to expect sometimes, and how to deal with it.

I woke up with the rising sun on the morning of Thursday May 15, 1986 in a tent pitched on our homesteading property. It was my first morning on the land, I was there by myself, and it was one of the most sharply depressing moments of my life.

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Mortgage-Free Homesteading

homestead foundation 1988

July 1988 and two seasons into the construction of our homestead foundation built from limestone gathered from the area. Mary taking a break in front of a window arch.

Mortgages have always scared me, but that’s not the main reason I chose to avoid one by living the  homestead lifestyle. No, the decision that changed the trajectory of my life happened while riding on the fender of a farm tractor at the end of a sunny August day in 1981.  But it was more about finding something good rather than running from something bad . . .

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8 Good Reasons for Homesteading

There are some good reasons to think that real-world homesteading is for you. Here are 8 of the top ones in my book:

Good Homesteading Reason#1: You’re good at working with your hands.

homesteading hands

Homesteading success comes from a unique blend of hands-on work, get-it-down attitude, energy and creative intelligence.

If you’re the kind of person who’d rather be dirty and sore at the end of the day than clean and well-rested, then homesteading might be for you. Do you really like physical work? Are you good at it? If so, then that’s a good sign. There’s a lot more to think about than this, though . . . Continue reading

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Know-How for Family Homestead Living