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Homesteading for BeginnersHaving a homestead can provide a lot of economical benefits and environmentally friendly perks. Of course, you have to start somewhere. These are a few tips to help get your feet wet in the world of homesteading.

Count the Cost

You don’t want to have your dream of being ecologically independent crushed by running out of money in your budget before you’re able to have a profitable return. You need to know what you’re going to have to do to make your current living situation compatible with your goals. It’s a good idea to learn about the land you plan to work on. The quality of the soil can help or hinder your efforts. Water drainage and soil erosion are factors that can affect your strategy.

If your property already has dense foliage, you may consider using the trees as firewood, for building fences (to keep deer and other wildlife out of your garden), or even for building. Using the wood for heat can help out in the winter if you’re trying to minimize your presence on the grid, plus bundles of firewood can fetch a good price if you decide that you want to sell it locally.

Speaking of firewood, learning to swing an axe and other construction skills wouldn’t be the worst idea for starting a homestead. It’s possible to make a fence from scratch using wire. A thicker gauge like 12-14 is good unless you’re going for a chicken wire pattern. Some homesteaders have home made wooden boxes that are used as raised garden beds that you can fill with choice soil. These types of beds tend to cut down on weeds and are easier on the back.

Homesteading for Beginners

Garden

No homestead would be complete without a garden. If you don’t have land to grow on, you can garden in containers quite effectively. You’d be amazed by how much you can grow on a balcony or patio!

Using cement bricks as a foundation for your enclosure can discourage pests and you can use sticks that are too small to use as firewood or lumber as posts. If you’re into reusing grey water you can install an irrigation system that will trickle downhill and cut back on what you spend watering your garden in dry spells.

Be sure to choose organic and heirloom seeds where possible. Look for local seed swapping groups! You may also want to include flowers that bees love, like Cosmos, Sunflowers, Lavender, Zinnias, and Calendula — just to name a few.

Don’t Be Afraid to Raising Chickens (or Other Animals!)

Raising chickens may feel like it’s out of your comfort zone but the payoff is worth it. The biggest hurdle is discouraging predators. This can be done by burying chicken wire below the ground and fanning it away from the chicken’s area. Before investing, or getting your hopes up, you will also want to make sure that keeping animals on your land is legal, since laws vary from state to state, city to city, and township to township.

Ask for Help (and Be Willing to Give It, Too)

It can be very helpful (and encouraging) to remember that you are not alone, especially when you feel overwhelmed. Talk to people around you that are trying to do the same thing — you may be pleasantly surprised! People that are reaching out to help the environment are usually willing to help you too. Many homesteaders even have a trade and barter system, so if you have a surplus, try offering it for something you need. If no one else is doing it locally, there are countless blogs and websites about strategies and personal experiences of successful homesteaders.

Homesteading for Beginners

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How to Grow Plants From ProducePlants are a great way to spruce up your home, and plants from produce add function too! All you need to get started are groceries, planters (get creative by upcycling containers), soil (or a bit of quality compost), and a patience.

Herbs

Rooted herbs are hardy and often available in organic versions at the grocery store. If you don’t have rooted versions you can place sprigs in water with a few leaves below the waterline to encourage root growth.

A rooting aid can come in handy! Keep them in a window or other well lit place and you’ll have fresh herbs at your fingertips all year long.

Avocados

I’ve tried to grow avocados a number of times but was never successful until recently. There are a number of methods floating around online, but the method that worked best for me might give you flashbacks to elementary school.

All you’ll need is an avocado seed, a plastic baggie, a wet paper towel, a windowsill and patience. Lots of patience. If you’ve got a good see you should see roots rather quickly, and you’ll want to give them plenty of time to grow. (I gave mine a few weeks or so.) After you’ve got strong roots started it’s time to plant your avocado in soil, and in a sunny and warm spot. Cover the roots completely, but not the seed! Leave the top uncovered a bit. Keep the soil moist — you may even want to cover it with a plastic film or dome to create a bit of a greenhouse. After about a month (perhaps sooner) you should have a sprout! Once it sprouts your avocado should grow quickly.

If you live in a climate with evenings below 60 degrees Fahrenheit you’ll want to bring your new plant indoors.

I keep mine in a window where I give it a little water every few days. I’m not sure I’ll ever get to enjoy fruit from my little tree here in Ohio, but I certainly enjoy the foliage from my little plant!

How to Grow Plants From Produce

Greens

Greens are easy to grow and quite useful. They’re obviously great in salads, but can be tossed into a variety of meals or uses to provide a lovely garnish.

If you’d like to grow them from scraps you’ll want to purchase greens with a bit of root attached. Place them in water until they’ve regrown some strong roots and then plant. Be sure to clip leaves to use as your plant grows. If it goes to seed (you’ll know!) you can easily harvest and plant them for fresh growth!

Peppers

Like other obviously seeded produce, the seeds from the pepper plant can be easily harvested and used. Pepper seeds require special conditions to germinate because of their waxy outer coating. You’d want plenty of warmth to help the water penetrate the coating. Some people even give each seed a tiny nick to help speed the process along.

Pineapple

If you live in a warmer climate, pineapples could be a reality for you. Northerners may envy you (though they can always try their hand at growing them indoors!) Place the cut top of a pineapple in water until roots form (this could be a few weeks!) and then move to a pot once well established. These plants can be large, so you may want a dwarf variety if you plan to keep it indoors.

How to Grow Plants From Produce

Ginger

Soak a piece of ginger and then transfer it to a pot with soil. You’ll want to keep the soil moist. Eventually you will begin to see new roots, which can be harvested.

Fruit Trees

Depending on your climate you may be able to germinate seeds in a baggie or in tiny soil pods and then transfer to larger pots to get established, and ultimately place them outdoors. If you live in a cold climate you may choose to keep the plants indoors.

For citrus plants, you’ll want to help get the seeds going by sucking on them to help remove the outer coatings of the seeds and then germinating as usual. Apple and pear seeds can go straight to the germination process. I prefer the plastic baggie method, as I have found it to be the most effective.

Growing your own plants can be rewarding. Be sure to choose organic starters! You can find more gardening tips on Pinterest.

How to Grow Plants From Produce

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12 Simple Tips for Conserving Water at HomeWhether you live in an area prone to drought or not, conserving water is a worthwhile endeavor for your wallet and the environment. Water treatment requires a lot of resources and at a great cost to the planet we live on. These easy tips can help you reduce the amount of water you consume without too much effort or thought – mostly:

  1. Take showers. Reasonable showers (not long relaxation showers) use less water than your average bath.
  2. Take a shorter shower. Get the morning routine down pat and minimize the time you spend waking up in the shower. Grab a cup of coffee before you hop in if you must. As a bonus, the reduced time spent in that steamy water will be much easier on your skin (oh the dryness!)
  3. Always run your dishwasher as a full load. Don’t pack it in so tight that you can’t get the dishes clean, but running a half full machine is just no good.
  4. Always run a full washing machine. Same as above. There’s no need to wash just a few items. If you can’t make a full load, think about any bedding, curtains, or table cloths that might need washed.
  5. Water your plants with grey water reclaimed from the shower (provided you use safe products) or water left from boiling pasta, rinsing produce, etc.
  6. Install a grey water system. If you want to go all out on grey water, you can even install a house system to make it easier!
  7. No leaks! Be sure to check faucets, and the pipes below, a few times a year to be sure that there are no leaks. Those costs can really add up – especially when damage becomes involved.
  8. Turn of the faucet. Turn it off when you are brushing your teeth or hand-washing dishes. There’s no need to leave that faucet running when you aren’t using it and this is an especially important lesson to model for kids – who tend to be a bit forgetful.
  9. Install low-flow shower heads and faucets. These fixtures have special features that choke down the water flow, but good ones won’t make you sacrifice on water pressure, so be sure to shop around and read reviews!
  10. Drop a full water bottle in your toilet’s tank. This will reduce the amount of water needed to fill the tank — saving water with ever flush!
  11. Keep drinking water in the fridge, if you prefer it cold. This will save water over running the cold water until it meets your temperature needs. For healthier drinking water, choose one with a good filter. You’d be surprised to learn what’s in municipal water.
  12. Use a bucket to wash your car, and get a clean one to rinse it off. It’ll use much less water than your hose and be just as effective.

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14 Inspired Ways to Reuse Mason Jars

by Megan McCoy Dellecese · 2 comments

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14 Inspired Ways to Reuse Mason JarsMason jars, also known as canning or Ball jars, are a hip trend for several reasons. They’re rustic yet chic. They come in a variety of sizes and styles. They’re super versatile. And, best of all, they’re made of glass (ie BPA-free) and recyclable, making them eco-friendly. You can go even greener by reusing any glass jar from products like tomato sauce or pickles by washing and scraping off the labels.

There are countless uses for jars, but here are just a few ideas to get you looking at this humble kitchen staple in a new light.

Canning

Home canning is the most obvious use for these popular jars, but also go hand-in-hand with a green, simplified lifestyle. Even the smallest of gardens can produce an excess of produce. By using some BPA-free lids and a little bit of research, you can safely “put up” this surplus for a later date. A pressure canner is a small investment that can really pay off!

Salad Dressing Container

You can use whatever your favorite dressing recipe might be or just throw in some oil, vinegar, a squirt of dijon mustard and seasoning, and you’ve got the perfectly shakeable container to douse your greens.

14 Inspired Ways to Reuse Mason Jars

Lunch Packing

If you’re trying to cut back on your use of plastic bags and containers, try checking out the various sizes of mason jars to fit your lunch packing needs. A larger size can contain a salad in a jar (with the dressing on the bottom – just shake before serving) or even leftover soup or casserole (just take off the metal lid before microwaving).

DIY Yogurt Cups

Pint jars are the perfect size to carry your own to-go yogurt. Control the ingredients further by tossing in some frozen organic berries in the bottom, some (optional) honey or maple syrup, and topping it with plain yogurt (either homemade or from a large, cheaper container of organic yogurt). The berries will thaw by your mid-morning snack or lunchtime. Make a kid-friendly version with smaller 4 oz. jars.

Dips

If you love to dip your veggies into hummus or dressings but can’t figure out a practical way to transport the dips to work, fear not. Small canning jars are perfectly sized and sealed to keep liquid in. You can also put the dip in the bottom of a pint jar and place the sliced vegetables vertically on top.

Hip Gifts

Consider packaging gifts using a mason jar and some twine or ribbon. Or, make the jar a part of the gift by layering ingredients for a soup recipe, homemade cocoa mix, and more. If you want to get really creative, mason jars pair beautifully with Edison light bulbs to create breathtaking lights! The sky really is the limit.

Baby Food

Again, the small mason jars can be handy for so many things! Cook and puree your baby’s fruit or veggies and portion into small sizes. Most can even be frozen, so this can easily be done in advance, defrosted in the fridge, and carried along to wherever baby is headed for the day.

On-the-Go Snacks

It can be so tempting to grab unhealthy snacks when you’re out and about but by tossing some raisins, granola, trail mix, or nuts into a small mason jar, you won’t be empty-handed.

Super Simple Bank

Jars are perfect for tossing those wayward coins. Feel free to label them so that you have a focus as to where those coins will end up, be it a vacation fund, shopping trip, or an emergency fund.

14 Inspired Ways to Reuse Mason Jars

Flower “Vase”

You may have seen this done at a wedding recently, but why not give it a go at your own house? The next time you’re searching for a vase for a handful of posies, give a large mason jar (or various sizes in a grouping for variety) a try. You may have a new favorite flower arrangement.

Coconut Oil Container

Whether you use coconut oil to condition your hair, to moisturize, or for its thousand other uses, it’s a bit of a pain in the neck to go back to the one container every time you need to use some (and pretty expensive to buy several containers for all over the house). Divvy it up among small jars and find how much easier it can be. This also makes it easier for mixing essential oils.

Decorating

Vases are just the beginning! Turn to a mason jar when you need a candleholder, or to fill with interesting fillers like acorns for autumn, festive ornaments for the holidays, pine cones and cinnamon sticks for winter, or eggs and twine in springtime.

Collecting

It seems that children (especially those who enjoy plenty of time outside) are always collecting a variety of random items that become cherished treasures, not to be tossed back outside. As long as none of these items are living, use a mason jar to store these treasures; even label the top with a marker for a keepsake: “Brady’s Hike, June 7, 2015.” Speaking of keepsakes, try this as an adult! Display jars from different trips, collecting mementos like ticket stubs, keys, sand, rocks, shells – whatever will remind you of how you spent a special time with loved ones.

14 Inspired Ways to Reuse Mason Jars

Drinking Cup

Serving drinks, whether at a party or just to yourself, in a mason jar doesn’t look like a shabby, cheap faux pas these days. Although, if you do mix up a “signature” cocktail (or mocktail), that won’t hurt to up the cool factor, either.

14 Inspired Ways to Reuse Mason Jars

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