100 Days of Useful Homesteading Skills: Day 40 – How to Grow Herbs


Herbs are a very valuable crop on the homestead. Whether you are growing culinary herbs, medicinal herbs, or a cash crop, herbs are just handy to have around.

We grow herbs for medicine, both for ourselves and our animals. We also grow culinary herbs. However, we often find that we have so much abundance, that we simply can’t use all the herbs we have grown. In that case, we either barter or sell our excess herbs.

You will have to determine for yourself what herbs you need most in your household. Like most things on this site, we recommend starting small and working up from there.

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100 Days of Useful Homesteading Skills: Day 39 – How to Plant a Tree

apple-tree-nature-branch-blossom-plant-666692-pxhere.comI’m told that there is a Chinese Proverb that goes, “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now.” I believe whoever came up with that had it right. Mature trees have a lot going for them but you can’t get mature trees without someone planting them. That’s why it should be one of the first things you do on your homestead.

The years will roll by faster than you realize and before you know it, you could be harvesting fruit from the trees you should have planted when you first moved in. Make sure that fruit and nut trees are in your plan before you ever look at a property. If you have property now, start thinking about what you will be planting this season.

In 3-5 years your trees will be throwing so much fruit and nuts at you that you will barely be able to keep up. In 10 years, you will be actually giving it away or feeding it to your animals just to keep up with production because you’ve already canned, frozen, and dried more than your family will eat. Continue reading

100 Days of Useful Homesteading Skills: Day 38 – How to Keep Pipes from Freezing

icicle-1954827When you live off-grid you are often your own carpenter, electrician, and plumber. Especially in the cold winter in the middle of the night.

There are very few professionals that will send someone out to you when you need them most. It is best to get some very excellent books on these topics or take a few basic courses to be well-prepared.

One thing few folks think about when they have lived in the city or have never owned their own property before is winterizing their pipes, including their well, to prevent freezing. Especially if they have never lived in a cold region before.

Frozen pipes are a big problem in and of themselves because they require repair but they can also burst. This can cause flooding and damage to your property.

There are a few things you can do to prevent this inside the house. The easiest of these is to keep the temperature in the house above 50 degrees. Leave the faucets on to drip just slightly, this includes your exterior faucets and the faucets at your wells and pumps (remember to turn them off in the morning or put timers on them so that they turn on and off an hour before sunset and after sunrise). Seal up holes or cracks near pipes with caulk. Keep interior doors open to allow heat to flow throughout the house. Wrap accessible pipes with foam sleeves to keep them insulated.

It is important to winterize your well and pump too, especially if you live in an area where the weather routinely drops below freezing.  Covering your
pipes with foam insulating sleeves will help prevent freezing. In my area, wells and pumps are generally not housed in a well-house but in colder regions, not doing so is asking for trouble. Well-houses provide protection from the elements and heating elements can be added with thermostats attached so that they can switch on in the case of freezing temperatures.

Have you ever had a frozen pipe? What happened and how did you deal with it? Share your experience with your fellow readers.

100 Days of Useful Homesteading Skills: Day 37 – How to Reuse Citrus Peels

citrus peelsHere on our homestead, we try to reuse everything. The problem is, we love citrus and we can’t feed that to our chickens, our pigs won’t touch them, and they don’t compost well. While I do cook with citrus rind and occasionally have call to use it in teas I don’t have that many uses for it.

So it used to sit in large bags in our freezer until someone is coming for a visit. At which point, I would stuff some down the garbage disposal to make the house smell nice. That was all well and good except that folks don’t come out to the boonies for a visit that often. I started looking up other ways to use those darn peels.

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100 Days of Useful Homesteading Skills: Day 36 – Make Your Own Soap

food-cheese-fudge-soap-hand-made-parmigiano-reggiano-588469-pxhere.comI won’t lye (pun intended) this one probably won’t save you money, but it will be fun, it makes nice gifts, and it is a good use for excess milk.

One of the things we always have a lot of on the homestead is goat milk. Sure we drink it, feed it to the chickens and the pigs, make cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. Still, we have a LOT of goat milk.

That’s where soap comes in. We make the extra milk into soap for ourselves, our friends, our family, and to barter with. Our favorite one to make is coffee soap. It gets rid of nasty odors like barnyard and fish guts. Plus it uses up another extra thing we have a lot of, coffee grounds.

That’s the recipe we’re going to share with you today.  Continue reading

100 Days of Useful Homesteading Skills: Day 35 – Make an Emergency Kit and an Emergency Plan

140529-F-IP756-012Fires, floods, earthquakes, and more are all things faced by people somewhere every day in the United States. For city dwellers, the process of evacuation is simpler, they may have multiple directions to take, multiple options for shelter, fewer animals to consider, and time to plan.

If you live in the country on a homestead, chances are there are not as many directions for travel, shelter options are limited (especially if you have livestock), you have many animals with diverse needs to consider, and you are often not warned until it is nearly too late.

You and your family members need to have go-bags prepared and in one location, ready to go if a fire, flood, or other natural disasters should strike. Make an Emergency Plan, sign up for emergency alerts on your home and cell phones, prepare a first aid kit, insure your property, and protect important documents.

Here’s what you need in your personal emergency kit (recommended by ready.gov): Continue reading

100 Days of Useful Homesteading Skills: Day 34 – Know How to Care for Your Tools

rope-wood-vintage-antique-retro-old-595542-pxhere.comThe handle on my favorite hammer just broke off and I’m heartbroken. I’ve never loved a tool more than I loved that thing, but it honestly needed a new handle about 5 years ago. I had cobbled it together so many times with screws, putty, and nails. It surprised me that the handle didn’t just come out where I’d cobbled it together, it just broke clean off under the head itself. The new handle won’t feel nearly as comfortable in my hand as the old one did.

Tools require care. They are prone to rust and may require sharpening from time to time. Most also have wooden handles that can split or break when left out in the weather. Chances are you already have several in poor shape.

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100 Days of Useful Homesteading Skills: Day 33 – Know how to Use Your Tools Properly

work-man-tree-nature-forest-grass-1188643-pxhere.comDo you know that most people in the US don’t know how to use a shovel properly or how to hold and use an ax?

Knowing how to use your tools appropriately not only helps you do the job more efficiently, it also saves you money and protects your body from undue harm. Tools are designed to be used in a specific way. When used in an intended way, they need less sharpening and care. Your body also requires less energy to operate them and will be less likely to be injured. Continue reading

100 Days of Useful Homesteading Skills: Day 32 – Recycle and Repurpose

_Use_It_Up-Wear_It_Out-Make_It_Do__-_NARA_-_513834There was a saying during World War II, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. ” The same holds true today for modern homesteaders, only we tend to say, “reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle.”

The basic premise is first to reduce our reliance on materials that would ordinarily end up in the landfill by purchasing products with less packaging and reusing or recycling the packaging on those products that do have it.

Homesteaders have an advantage in this because our grocery stores come from our own property, but we still have feed sacks and some commercial purchases to make at the local grocer. Continue reading

100 Days of Useful Homesteading Skills: Day 31 – How to Grow Plants from Cuttings

Grape_Vine_CuttingsPlants can be grown from cuttings as well as seeds. Some plants do even better this way. Grapes, for example, are far easier to grow from a cutting than from a seed. Blackberries are also easier to grow from a cutting than from a seed.

Propagation by stem cuttings is the most commonly used to propagate woody shrubs and vines. Maintaining high humidity around the cutting is critical. This can be accomplished in a greenhouse or by placing plastic or glass over the pot.

There are four main types of stem cuttings are herbaceous, softwood, semi-hardwood, and hardwood. These types refer to the growth stage of the parent (stock) plant, not the plant type itself. Different plants will have different optimal times for taking cuttings.

Let’s discuss the four types of stem cuttings in detail.

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