Five Ways to Maximize the Use of a Wood Stove

homestead tips Jan 19, 2021

Whether you live off grid, have a homestead, or live in the city, in my opinion a wood stove is an essential addition to the household. If you happen to have one already, there are several things you can do in order to maximize the use of your wood stove.

A Source of Heat

The first and most obvious function of the wood stove is for a primary or secondary source of heat. In fact because I live off the grid, the wood stove is my only source of heat. This works well because I have easy access to an almost unlimited source of firewood.

Even if you live in the city or you are otherwise grid connected, the wood stove is a great back up system. If the grid goes down for days to weeks due to a major storm or a natural disaster, you at least have an alternative source of heat. This has actually happened to me on several occasions. The last time was when I was living in South Carolina. An ice storm took out the utility grid and power was not restored for 10 days.

A Source of Hot Water

Besides...

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DIY Heated Chicken Waterer

homestead tips Jan 12, 2021
 

If you have a working homestead, then you know the value and importance in saving money. This not only applies to your household but also to the animals that provide you with food. In this post, I reveal a simple way to save money by making a heated chicken waterer.

What prompted me to work on this project was my frustration over having to replace my plastic watering devices. Since I live in a colder climate, the plastic waterers were cracking and breaking on a regular basis.  I've had to replaced the heated model twice in the last year. 

First I decided to go with a metal farm style watering fountain. Replacement cost for two of these was about $42. But, the heated base ranged in cost from $50 to $60. Not to mention the fact that they consumed about 125 watts per hour x 2.

The end result is that I needed to find an alternative. I needed something that was inexpensive, durable, and easily replaced.  I purchase the metal watering fountains and after some research I...

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Chainsaw Series: Introduction to the Chainsaw

essential skills Jan 06, 2021
 

There and numerous tools that are needed for the successful working homestead. In fact, I have a post that discusses the 100 Best Homestead Tools. However, one of the most important and useful tools around the homestead is the chainsaw. Yet it is one of the tools that can be intimidating and even feared by many people. That said, one of the purposes of this series of articles is to get you much more comfortable with using this valuable tool.

Chainsaws are either gas powered, battery powered, or electric. It depends on your particular application and location. For example, cutting firewood or clearing timber on the homestead will likely require a gas powered chainsaw. But, if you are pruning trees close to the house, an electric or battery powered tool may do the job.

Traditionally, the chainsaw has been used for cutting firewood and felling timber. However, chainsaws are also used by homeowners, construction workers, firefighters, as well as artists and sculptors.

Although this...

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How I Built a Solar Battery Box for less than $50

Solar battery enclosures can range in price from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. The price depends mostly on the size of the enclosure and the manufacturer. But, if you are a DIY kind of person, you can save yourself a considerable amount of money. This is what I did. I used some spare lumber and other materials I had on the homestead and I built a solar battery enclosure for less than $50.

First, I leveled out an area under the eave on the North side of the cabin. Then I place some left over landscaping brick on the ground for the battery enclosure to sit on. At this point, the solar panels have been mounted but of course none of the electrical work has been connected.  You can see the AC loads panel for the cabin in the upper left of this photo.

The next step was to build the base and make sure that was level. For this part, i used some heavy duty rough cut timber that was left over from re-surfacing a bridge.

Then I framed in the back, then the top and side...

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Adventures with Bears

humor survival Dec 09, 2020

Since I’ve had the cabin property I’ve had numerous interesting, and sometimes scary, encounters with wildlife. Just recently, I unexpectedly ended up nearly face to face with a rather large bull moose. Fortunately this encounter ended uneventfully and I walked away only with a huge adrenaline surge and a very rapid heart rate. Now this type of encounter does not happen every week but it does happen regularly. But, to understand why that is requires a little background information.

My cabin property has always been somewhat isolated and very private. I purchased the property in 1996 and to this day I still do not have any neighbors. My property is part of a quarter section, which is 360 acres, that is completely surrounded by National Forest. The property is 9 miles from the main highway. Access is off a spur road and through a portion of National Forest. The last mile is a private road.

You have to go through three locked gates in order to get to the cabin. The property...

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Simple Solar Project Part II

 

If you read my last post on off grid power and viewed the video on simple solar projects, you now know that some of these projects are in fact very easy to put together and require only some very basic knowledge of solar energy, wiring, and appropriate safety precautions. 

After I put together that post, it occurred to me some people might be wondering about simple off grid power systems that come pre-packaged and ready to go.  In the that post, I built a 200 watt solar array from scratch. However,  there are many basic systems on the market that are “plug and play”. This simply means that you order a complete system, unpack it from the shipping boxes, follow the simple directions on how to plug things together, and you have a ready made source of off grid power.  

While these simple off grid power systems are readily available, they are more geared toward mobility. This means that these systems are easy to pack up and relocate.   ...

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Construction of the Second Cabin

 

A number of years after building the log cabin, I decided that I wanted to expand.  I truly wanted a cabin that was much more modern and with a few more amenities.  But I also wanted to have additional living quarters so that friends and family could come to the property and stay for the weekend.  All of this was going to required building another cabin.  

The cabin project actually started a year or more before the actual construction was started.  I first had someone excavate a large hole in order to bury a water cistern. Once that was complete, I hauled in the cistern, did the back fill, and buried it as much as possible.  

The second step of this cabin project was to do the foundation work.  I met with a contractor about the framing work, decided on a design as well as dimensions, and set about pouring concrete footings.  I took a month off of work to complete this portion of the project.  

It was actually more efficient, both time...

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Simple Solar Project Part I

 

Renewable energy is key to being self sufficient on the homestead. Having an alternative source of energy, such as solar, makes you a little bit more self reliant. Despite the importance of this, many people are intimidated by this topic and never realize that quite often a simple solar project is easily within their reach.

In this video post, I demonstrate how I solved a particular problem with my green house.  The green house sits a 10,000 feet elevation and has been in place for about 3 years.  I assumed that my biggest problem would be keeping it warm enough. However, due to the intense mid-day sun at that elevation, my biggest problem is keeping it cool enough. I tried putting in roof vents, side vents, leaving the door open, and using small 12 volt fans to circulate air. But nothing was working the way I wanted it to. What I needed was a large electric fan to force hot air out through the roof vents. But in order to run a fan, I needed electricity. The utility lines...

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How I Built the Log Cabin

 

When I was growing up in Georgia and Tennessee I spent an enormous amount of time on the farm, hiking, camping, and wondering through the forest. As with most kids, I also spent a lot of time day dreaming about all the things I wanted to do.  

The main thing I dreamed about was building a log cabin and living out in the forest in the middle of nature.  Not only did I dream about the log cabin, I also read books on different building methods. I took this a step further by learning the different corner notches that were common for log cabin construction.  As if that was not enough, I gather sticks and small logs and built miniature versions of a log cabin. I also practice building small stone fireplaces our of gravel and mud, dried them, this built a small fire to test their function.  

When I turned 18 I moved to Colorado still dreaming of the log cabin.  I managed to purchase a small cabin by the time I was 22 years old.  It was not exactly what I...

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Composting With Worms

sustainability Nov 10, 2020
Although composting has many benefits, not everyone has an appropriate place for a compost bin. Additionally, some people like myself, live in a colder climate which can make composting more difficult. Not only that, I was hesitant to put together a large composing bin due to the local wildlife especially the bears. Consequently, for many years I never composted organic waste. But this all changed when some friends of mine introduced me too composting with worms.  

Benefits of Composting With Worms

Roughly 28% of what we throw away can be composted instead of ending up in a landfill. Most of this is comprised of food scraps and yard waste. These things take up a lot of space in the landfill and contribute to the production of methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas. However, if you have limitations due to climate and simply available space, composting with worms can provide an easy and efficient way to turn waste into valuable fertilizer. But, there are many other benefits....

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