Hmmm... Where should I start?
We purchased our current home nearly 6 years ago. It had been sitting empty for quite a number of years and it has needed a lot of 'elbow grease'. One area that was desperately needing an upgrade was the power system. The solar array was very old and seriously insufficient, the batteries were half alive, and the equipment was ancient and 'Jerry-rigged'.
But a new system doesn't grow on trees, and ever since the time we purchased this homestead, we have been planning, saving, shopping, and scheming to upgrade this home to a larger, newer, and more efficient power system that will easily meet our families needs.
Well, in some ways it was that simple. In other ways... not as much!
When we moved in the first thing we did was change out the inverter (the piece of equipment that converts power from DC current (the 'storable' kind of power - think batteries) to AC current (the usable kind that your phone charger is plugged into right now). The reason was that the inverter produced 'modified sine wave' electricity. You can think of that as 'dirty electricity'. It works... well, for most things. But your more sensitive electronics, like all our office equipment (Computers, duplicators, printers, sound equipment, etc) don't work as well (or don't work at all, as with my Vitamix blender! Haha!).
So the inverter was promptly swapped out with a new inverter that produced 'pure sine wave electricity' and would fit into our long term goals. One piece of equipment was done.
The next thing we got was all our solar panels. We already knew what we wanted and how much we needed, so when we saw a really great deal on our favorite solar panels, we jumped on it! AND... those lovely panels were stacked safely in our garage for a few years while we continued to save and shop.
Finally, the batteries bit the dust. Nick made a gallant effort to stretch just as much life out of those poor things as is humanly possible. And believe me, he has the patience of the saints!! I would have given up long before, but here's a little about what he did to eek every ounce of life out of them. Once we got every penny out of them that we could, we finally purchased the new, much larger forklift battery bank and installed it into our power system. That was a VERY happy day!
Next was to install the solar pole mount. And yes, we did it ourselves. Pole mounts are very convenient from a number of perspectives, and for us, it was a perfect fit. But installing one can be a HUGE headache if you think about having to lift all those solar panels to the top of a pole! However, we found a pole mount that was designed to be assembled at ground level and then raised to the desired height after installation is almost entirely complete. And THAT was a game-changer for us. MT Solar has the best solar mounts and it was like putting together a puzzle with some really great instructions. More about that soon...
Last, we changed out all the inside equipment and wired everything together. Now, I'm no electrition (if you can't already tell)! But even I was helping Nick wire all the equipment together (scary, right?!). Honestly, if you have a basic understanding of how to wire a home properly, then taking on this task of installing your own power system won't be any problem for you. And it wasn't for us.
If we can do it, honestly, you can too!
What plans do you have for installing a system? Where are you at in your journey of setting up your power system? We would LOVE to hear them! Comment below and share with us your story.
Backstory: I had started some Meyer Lemon plants from seed several years ago, and had to transplant them into some new pots. I’m a very frugal person (translation = miserable penny-pincher) so I used dirt from our property.
Fast forward to a couple of months ago. Our lovely Meyer Lemon trees are growing wonderfully in our sunny bathroom. However, I had been having an ongoing problem that was starting to get out of hand. I was getting piles (and I do mean PILES) of dirt out the bottoms of the pots. I’d clean it all up, toss it into the top, and find the same piles out the bottom the next day. It was crazy!
So finally I stopped and checked to see what was ‘living’ in my pots. To my surprise, there was a happy growing colony of worms in my plants! I had heard that Meyer Lemon plants were needy little souls, so instead of buying fertilizer (there goes my frugal self again), I had been dumping the tea scraps into the plants that were left after I made tea for the kids.
So we had worms… and as soon as my children discovered that, I also had dirty kids and a filthy bathroom! Those poor Meyer Lemon plants. So for Nathan’s birthday, we made him a worm farm. ...And bought some new soil, devoid of worms, for my Meyer Lemon plants.
Worms, especially the red composting earthworms, tend to migrate upwards to where the food is. Then they push their castings out the bottom (hence the piles of dirt out the bottom of my Lemon trees). So we take advantage of that by creating a slightly tapered multiple bin arrangement. Then the bins can sit inside each other providing a way for you to feed, harvest, and drain the worms’ home. Then we screwed holes in the two upper bins so the worms could migrate between the bins easily. The bottom bin catches the compost ‘tea’ (great for fertilizing your plants with).
Worm castings are collected from the lower bins while you put the compost or food scraps in the upper bin. Then, once the middle bin is full of rich, black, compost, you would then harvest all the castings. Place the upper bin (with scraps) in the middle. Then the empty bin goes on top and you start over again.
Here is a picture of the entire bin system set up. The bottom bin usually doesn’t have much by way of compost tea, but that could be because we are in a dryer climate. We used blocks of wood to lift the bins some and give the worms some extra space.
The top bin is where I add the compost and scraps. I start by making a ‘bed’ of shredded paper or newspaper and sprinkle some sand on top. Then I use a watering can to add moisture to the bed. Then I start adding our kitchen scraps on top of that.
Here are some of the items I like to give our worms:
Fruit peelings (not citrus)
Tea bags or scraps
Here are some things you want to limit or avoid adding:
Onions and onion skins
Potatoes and potato peels
Citrus fruits and their rinds
Fats or fatty foods
The middle bin is where you harvest the compost. Once I’ve added plenty in the top bin (usually after about 2-3 months worth of compost) and the worms have migrated primarily from the middle bin to the top, then it’s time to switch. I’ll pull the top bin out, and remove the dirt from the middle bin. Be sure to pull out any extra worms that might still be in the middle bin. Once it’s empty, I’ll move the top bin to the middle position, and place the empty bin on top. Then I make a bed of shredded paper or newspaper, sand, and get it wet in preparation for new kitchen scraps. The worms finish eating up the middle bin and slowly migrate to the top bin.
And the black gold you just harvested from the middle bin is WONDERFUL for your garden, house plants, etc.
I've had several people ask me if it stinks. Amazingly the answer is No. Not at all. It’s sitting in our dining room and the worms stay busy enough that there is not any problem with that at all.
It’s your turn… tell me if you have a worm bin and share with me what you’ve learned! I’m relatively new at this, and we are loving it. It’s not uncommon to hear my kids squealing with joy with little wiggling worms in their hands.
The picture above is from our living room window -- we call it our million-dollar view. But in order to have our million dollar view with a less than a bare-bones budget, it means that our commute to town is rather lengthy. It's an hour or more drive to town. And I don't know about you, but spending 2-3 hours on the road everyday sounds miserable and expensive. So we had to get creative about occupations when we moved to our current location. And that is what this article is all about - thinking outside the box. Some of the options may be obvious, while others are less so.
I think I’m safe in saying that employment is probably the most difficult issue that most homesteaders will face. We know many people who made the move into the country and faced serious challenges with finding work. We certainly did.
But it doesn’t have to be stressful. In order to have a good experience with homesteading, solving the income issue beforehand makes the whole experience SO much less stressful.
We have heard people say ‘Oh, we’ll find a job when we get to the country.’ Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Often the kinds of areas that have the elbow room to homestead, are also areas that are often economically depressed. And certainly, lower population areas where jobs are a little bit more challenging to come by. Or perhaps your personal skillset would not connect with the area you are looking to move to. That would leave you high and dry at a time when you need income the most.
Let’s face it, homesteading is not cheap. A new piece of property or homestead will often need a lot of work. Renovations, a new solar system, redoing the water system, putting in a garden, planting fruit trees, fencing for animals… and the list goes on and on.
Planning to find a job once you’ve moved is a poor decision in our opinion. We want to deeply impress upon you the extreme importance of nailing down a job FIRST before making any kind of transition to a homestead. It’s just as important as having water, trees, food, etc. If you don’t have a reliable income, you likely won’t be staying at your new homestead for very long.
We have connected with thousands of folks across the nation, and here are a few things we've gleaned.
You already have the training, experience, and contact to be successful. Why “upset the apple cart” right now while you have so many other big changes happening in your life? What you are already doing is what you are highly skilled at. So just go with that. Look for a homestead that would be close enough to your current job. No need to add any additional stress to your transition to the country by making a big job change as well. Perhaps you can find a new employer, doing the same work you are currently doing.
Another option is if your job is such that it could be just as easily done from home. Check with your employer and see if they might consider a remote working option for you. Same job, same co-workers, just a new office - home. With some jobs, this just isn’t possible, but for others, you might want to just ask.
We had a friend who worked in IT and payroll for a corporation. It was an office job that she went into each day. When she and her family moved several hours away, she naturally turned in her resignation. However, her company considered her such an asset to the company that they offered her to continue the job, just remotely. She had to travel to the office every few months. Think outside the box!
If you rule out the possibility of keeping your current job, then the next option I would recommend would be:
While it may not be as ideal as your current employment, it may hold the key to opening the door for you to make that transition. Try and find something you’ve done in the past and see if you can’t make that work. An example of this that comes to mind is of a friend who was a dental hygienist. She had a hobby that was filling a need in her community. So she would make her product on the side. However, over time, the demand grew exponentially that she had to scale back her employment to part-time. Later she was able to quit altogether and devote all her time to her growing home business.
What I’m trying to recommend is: don’t just try to jump into a hobby thinking it will support you. Make the transition more gradually and be sure it will support you before you make the move. Jumping into a new home business cold turkey and expecting it to support you rarely ever works.
So much caution is needed when working toward this kind of change. I would suggest you choose an occupation that would not require extensive or expensive training.
As an Employee: Hunt around in the area you are looking to move to and evaluate your personal strengths and weaknesses. Think outside the box and ask around.
As an Entrepreneur: Don’t forget to answer the most unasked questions - Is there a real demand or need for this service or product? You can’t just assume that because you want it, enough other people would want it to support your homestead. You could find yourself spending months or even years preparing for a business that only a few people need or want.
Be aware that just because a particular niche doesn’t have much competition doesn’t mean it’s a great niche to go into. When there is no competition, there may not be a need. Do your research before you launch into a new project.
Working remotely is becoming more and more popular in our age of ‘online marketplace’ options. And it’s a great option that is a great fit for some people. But as you think about this option, be sure to consider your personality. If you are someone who thrives on working face-to-face with others, then you might not do as well working by themselves. First of all, working remotely you need to be sure that you’ll have two things: Reliable internet & phone service.
Here is a great resource for looking for a remote job option: https://weworkremotely.com/#job-listings
The internet provides some incredible opportunities for connecting with customers all over the country, and really, all over the world. However, there are a few cautions I want to mention from our personal experience. First, if you build a website, they will not necessarily come. So many times we think that if we just build a website on the internet, we’ll magically have loads of people coming and visiting us, sort of like setting up a shop in a mall. But this is not so.
A website is much like a flyer or a catalog. If you don’t put it into someone's hands it won’t do you or anyone else any good. That’s where a lot of internet marketing genius is so necessary. It’s all about inviting the right people to visit your website and converting those visits to sales.
My personal suggestion is that you make paid advertising an important part of your business plan. However, it takes a lot of wisdom and skill to put those advertising dollars in the right place. If you don’t, you’ll be wasting a LOT of money VERY quickly in many places that do not give you the customers you really need to make an income to support your family. It really can be a tight-rope. For some, that’s a challenge they are ready to conquer, but for others, it’s not a good idea to try.
Some of you might be thinking of this as a way to make money. Many of these MLM’s are an incredible waste of time. What often happens is people work their tails off just to earn a bunch of money for their uplines. We know a dear lady who worked with almost superhuman effort, only to still need her day job years later. She should have been making a lot of money for the time she invested.
You might wonder why anyone would be sucked into such arrangements? Well, first, the company is taking care of pretty much all the business end of things (legal, shipping, etc, etc). That leaves you free to just connect with potential customers while offering support to them. In exchange for doing all the back end stuff, you wouldn’t make as much as you would if it were your own company. But it is much less of a headache than running your own company.
There are some legitimate MLM companies. To identify those, first, you want to see a very high percentage of customers instead of just representatives (builders). This gives the business a lot of stability. Another thing you want to look at is the pay scale. Make sure that the pay for the amount of time you put in is worth it. Go through the compensation plan and talk to a number of people who are successful to see if it’s working.
We have covered a lot of different options here. We realize that these are just some suggestions that might get you started on the right track. One important key point: Make sure that you have a reliable income BEFORE you make a move to a new country location.
What options have you come up with for working from a country location?
Did you like this information? All this info is covered in our newest 6-DVD set: Sustainable Preparedness 101
Hearing much of that lately? Bless you… or Gesundheit!
Sneezing is actually one of the body's defense mechanisms against airborne pathogens (translation: cold and flu bugs that float around in the air). The force of the sneeze expels those nasty little ‘bugs’ and sends them on their way… hopefully.
But just in case, we like to jump right in and help support our bodies defense system. It’s called the Immune system, and it’s an amazing network of many different little ‘good guys’ that work hard to protect us. But sometimes we need a little ‘help’ to support that amazing defense system.
Let me introduce you to one of our friends: Oregano Oil Continue reading
It’s been bugging me for a long time…
When it was just me cleaning my house, I could find excuses for using toxic, chemical-laden house cleaners. But the last straw for me was once I had little hands and feet with curious eyes wanting desperately to help their Mama.
So I went on a hunt for healthy, natural alternatives. Continue reading
Activated charcoal is one of those marvelous substances that is so often overlooked. But on our homestead, we use it quite frequently for everything from upset stomachs to bee stings.
In this video, Lisa will demonstrate the 3 methods that we use for applying charcoal, and a bunch of extra info from her years of personal experience and work at health centers. Continue reading
Just about the time we start REALLY enjoying the beautiful summer-like weather in late spring, those tiny little vampires arrive--Mosquitos.
Each spring, just before they arrive, Nick and I always seem to have the same conversation: "Hey, the mosquitos aren't here yet. Maybe, just maybe they won't be bad this year..." Then they show up with a vengeance.
And again we wage battle, striving to find ways to minimize their impact.
In an upcoming post we plan on sharing some great tips for keeping mosquitoes away, but right now we are focusing on how to deal with those painful bites--naturally.
So here are just a few of the home remedies for insect bites that we have found to really help in our family... Continue reading
Hash browns have always been one of my favorites… but I could never get my homemade ones to turn out right. They were usually always too gummy which would mean that I’d end up burning them. So out of desperation, I’d spend a lot of time carefully cutting them up into as small of chunks as I could and frying them up that way. It worked, sorta. But it still wasn’t hash browns.
Until one day I learned the secret: rinsing the shredded potatoes. So I tried it, and in no time at all I had the most mouth-watering, perfectly browned hash browns. Continue reading
Hormones. Doesn’t it make the hair on the back of your neck stand up (especially for you fellas that live with us ladies)?
Hormones can be really frustrating and a huge blessing also (when they are balanced properly). And I’m sure you’re all familiar with the saying, ‘If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.’
I'm not the greatest cook... honestly, when I first got married my poor husband put up with quite a bit of terrible food. But learning how to make very tasty, healthy home cooking became a passion of mine. Pancakes were no exception. I wanted pancakes... and not just any pancakes; I wanted mouth-watering pancakes that my family would beg for. You know, the kind that are BETTER than the ones at the restaurant. And that's exactly what I found...