Part of what we do to make ends meet here on the homestead is raising grass-fed cattle for people interested in healthier beef. Our pastures are excellent this year thanks to generous rains. Let me show you with these two video . . .
For those of us who love to build, renovate and improve our homesteads, success should be about more than just gaining a reliable place of shelter and source of food. A good homestead should also thrill and energize the people who live on the now, as well as those who’ll come along after we’re gone. I call this “the legacy perspective”, and there are three ways you can get intentional about making it happen in your home and your life.
Want to build your own cabin? Watch this 2 minute video sampler my Cozy Cabin video building course. Plans, instructional videos, illustrations, instructions and encouragement. This course has been called the most comprehensive guide on tiny home construction available today. Get the Cozy Cabin building plans and course risk-free from my online store.
While it’s true that winter isn’t always easy to take, what would spring be without the struggles of getting through the snow and cold first? Winter sets the stage for the sense of relief and new life that makes spring great, especially when it comes to gardening. At least it has done this for me ever since I started gardening seriously 30 years ago. Gardening and a big part of the enthusiasm I feel for it has to do with the new strategies I’ll be trying out. There are three big ones this year.
BUILD THIS CABIN FOR
$4000! Not in 2015!
One of my readers recently pointed out to me that one of the hottest topics in homesteading and tiny homes was a design and build guide for a tiny cabin that priced out at just $4000 for the exterior shell. That sounded like a stretch to me, so you can imagine my surprise when it was pointed out that the guide where these extraordinary figures were coming from was written by none other than me – Steve Maxwell!
If the walls of your homestead house are looking ratty, this free video course is for you. Patching drywall and masking lays the essential groundwork for any good interior paint job, and doing this work yourself is an excellent way to save money. As long as you know how to do it, that is. Learn about DIY drywall repair with my video series and you’ll see and learn everything you need to know for the most common situations right here in this course. Click the thumbnail below to learn how to:
Hoop houses are one way you can extend your growing season and protect your garden from wind, animals and frost. They’re simple structures that provide a ton of value for their cost. They’re also easy to build yourself using simple plastic pipe, ordinary lumber and clear plastic. The downloadable free hoop house plans package here shows how.
Lots of homeowners – both urban and rural – would love to have a place to store fruits and vegetables in cool conditions. That’s what basement cold rooms are for. Trouble is, typical modern cold rooms simply don’t work. Too cold in winter and too warm in summer is the usual problem. The downloadable plans below show exactly how to retrofit a standard basement cold room so it actually works.
The most I’ve ever paid for gasoline was $1.42/litre, and the experience left me feeling more than just fleeced. It also reminded me, once again, how vulnerable we all are when it comes to energy. Ultimately, we’ll pay just about anything to make our cars run and keep our homes warm, and even though the cost of energy has dropped recently, it doesn’t mean all is well. Far from it. We’ve been given a reprieve — temporary I’m sure — but with it comes a danger. That’s why we need to do something . . .
While some people are obviously better at gardening than others, I’ve come to realize that gardening success is possible for anyone with the energy to work and a heart that’s thrilled by beauty. The so-called “green thumb” myth comes down to nothing more than skills that are both simple yet challenging. Learn my four favourite gardening lessons and your thumbs will look like a lawn in June.
Maple syrup is one of the forest’s gifts to the world, and with more than 80% of global supply coming from Canada – the land of the maple leaf –we’ve earned our sweet reputation. What’s far less known is how much effort goes into making the syrup that graces tables everywhere, and the kind of commitment and risks shouldered by the hardworking people who make maple syrup happen. It’s a story worth telling because no one else in the world can tell it like us Canadians.
Young people today are having less success becoming homeowners and self-supporting adults than their parents or grandparents did. It’s simply a statistical fact. High student debt loads, low-paying jobs and expensive housing is reducing the rate of homeownership among young people, and this is one reason there’s a growing interest in modern homesteading. This is also an option that makes especially good sense in the North America of today.
Root cellars are cool, subterranean spaces ideal for storing vegetables, fruits, nuts and other foods, but at first glance they should be something you only see in museums. Yet somehow, despite the proliferation of convenience foods, the habit of eating out more often than in, and the steady decline in cooking skills, the old fashion idea of a root cellar is not only still with us, but it’s on the rise.
In the spring of 2014, something good happened in our quiet corner of rural Canada. It’s something I’ve been hoping would happen for a long time and it’s taught me things you might find interesting and useful.
Three Amish families moved onto two old and forgotten farms near our place while winter was still lingering last year, and these are the first Amish ever to come to our area. I’ve long admired the Amish faith and way of life – at least from a distance – and over the years I’ve learned all I can about Amish life from books. Now that I’ve gotten to know my new neighbours first-hand, they’ve reminded me of five important things. They’re worth thinking about, regardless of where you live.
Every homesteader needs tools, and that’s why I pay attention to new homesteading tools that might help people like us boost our self-reliance and success. Every year major power tool companies invite people from the media to come and see what’s arriving on the market, and I was in on the latest unveiling from the people who make DEWALT, Stanley, Black&Decker and other tool brands. Click below for a video glimpse of a cool tool event called the “New Product Avalanche”. It happened at a ski resort at Blue Mountain, Ontario on January 30th, 2015. Not exactly a place of homestead simplicity, but interesting just the same.
It was a bad day when fire destroyed the 60-year-old heirloom cottage of Mike and Alice Ogden, a bad day indeed. But from the ashes of this disaster grew roses of success. On the same lakeside site today you’ll find a compact, classically shaped structure that’s as energy efficient as it is eye catching. And how the Ogdens got from smoldering ruins to where they are today offers four pivotal strategies that can help anyone interested in building elegantly and efficiently with minimal environmental impact.
Homestead houses provide shelter, but the best are also expressions of the people who live in them. And while many folks dream of creating a homestead house that’s an expression of themselves, few attempt it. Fewer still manage to hang on to their creative convictions all the way through a long, challenging, hands-on homebuilding campaign. Chuc and Linda Willson are two people who’ve made it to the finish line, and their story proves that vision, a frugal building budget and a practical floor plan can come together and create a beautiful, one-of-a-kind home, even for those who’ve never done it before.
Homesteaders aren’t supposed to like the electrical grid, but I do. I never used to like it, but 30 years of real homestead life has taught me otherwise. Sure, there are problems with grid power, and I certainly don’t rely on it exclusively. That said, it’s hard to beat the grid when you want power for the workshop, food preservation or frost protection. Whether you like living off the grid or consider grid power a homestead heresy, you might enjoy seeing how we installed an electrical service connection on our homestead property that didn’t have enough soil for safe coverage of the cables. Click and watch the installation in action from start to finish.
Homesteading is at least as much about using tools as it is about growing things and raising animals. The ability to building and repair your homestead house and outbuildings is key to success. Watch Steve’s quick tour of a 12-volt cordless reciprocating saw that he’s been using lately. It’s one of many smaller, lighter and more powerful cordless tools that are revolutionizing the DIY world
At our place, homesteading extends beyond just the basics. It’s also about living well in many ways, including the flavours of what we eat. Watch and see how we harvest herbs and how to dry herbs here on our Manitoulin Island homestead. The whole process is a great way to connect with the land in a timeless, hands-on way.
Many homesteaders live in old, cold farm houses that are hard to heat. This is why an under-used insulation upgrade technique is worth knowing about. I got to see it in action back in January 2013, in the home you see above. It’s not exactly a typical homestead house, but it does have the same problems that many old farm houses have – insufficient insulation in hollow wood frame walls.
Here where I live on Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada, plenty of old-fashioned traditions remain alive. The annual apple pie bee is one of them. Watch how four camera-shy country ladies take some organic apples from heirloom trees on the Maxwell farm and turn them into some of the best homestead apple pies anywhere.