Chaos On Serenity

Diary Of An Off-Grid Homesteader

Tag: homestead

Top Ten Important Items For Your Extreme Homestead

Ok friends, before we dive into today’s Top Ten list, we should note that every homestead (off-grid or otherwise) is a unique operation and whether or not you fit the criteria of homesteader is honestly just a matter of opinion.

Seriously, I question my own homesteading creds at times! I may live off-grid in a camper in the woods, but I’ve yet to can my own tomato 🍅

The way I see it, if you’re involved in any activity which helps you shake free from the clutches of The Man (i.e. helps you become sovereign and self-reliant) than absolutely you are homestead-worthy!

After all, homesteading is as much a way of thinking as it is a way of living.

This being said, most homesteaders make sure they at least have a decent roof over their heads, an accessible driveway and some form of indoor plumbing before they take the homesteading plunge…

However, there’s a group of us out there who scoff at such folly…

We fall into a category known as off grid (off-grid, off the grid). But this category can be illusory as well, as there are off-gridders who are living in the height of luxury with decked-out cabins, solar-everything and composting toilets that cost thousands of dollars! (I’ve not actually met these people in real life, but I’ve seen them on YouTube)

So, for clarity’s sake, I coined the term ‘extreme homesteading’ to ensure I’d never be confused with the average namby-pamby homesteader… (kidding, kidding- I don’t think people with indoor plumbing are namby-pambys- I actually aspire to be just like them one day).

What Is Extreme Homesteading?

It’s one part camping, one part pioneer grit, and a whole lotta crazy.

You’re definitely 100 percent off grid. You might have a smattering of structures you’re building yourself in various states of completion. You should probably have access to things like a bulldozer and a bobcat. Maybe you have a saw mill to process your own trees. Definitely you have multiple generators, solar panels, chainsaws, and tools. Lots of tools. A ridiculous amount of tools.

While you do have something to live in (unless you are in the tropics, then some palm trees will suffice), it’s not quite a house. It could be a camper (nothing too fancy) a tent (get as fancy as you’d like) or even a van (a cozy kid’s bedroom, I say). Basically, anything temporary and hodgepodged together to get you by whilst you build The House Of Your Dreams.

There are some variables though. What one person needs to be comfortable can look a lot different than another (some of us are just nuttier by nature, I guess).

For example, our landmates purchased a solar refrigerator/freezer before they even considered coming to Serenity fulltime. We, on the other hand, are still working out of a cooler (or ice box, as I like to call it – much more pioneer-esque, don’t you think?)  

Okay, so now we’re clear about the definition of extreme homesteading, lets get to this super important, absolutely essential list already.

​Ten Important Items Every Extreme Homesteader Needs:

 â€‹1. Gigantic Pot.

 I talked about this in a previous post; however, the Gigantic Pot is really essential if you don’t have an on-demand water heating system set up yet. With the gigantic pot and a heating source (stove top or fire), you can keep a nice supply of hot/warm water to be used throughout the day for washing dishes and bodies. Believe me, you’ll feel a lot more in control of your life when you at least have the option of keeping things and people clean.

 â€‹2. Witch Hazel.

As a natural beauty care buff, I am IN LOVE with witch hazel. The main thing I use it for every day is to clean my face. Its super-refreshing, doubles as a toner, doesn’t dry my face out and, man, is it good at getting rid of the sweaty grime that builds up several times a day in peak gardening season.

As an all natural waterless face cleanser, witch hazel makes extreme homesteading (where attaining water, especially warm water, can be a bit of a procedure) a much more convenient affair.

Instead of wasting a whole lotta water to wash my face, I just pull out the witch hazel, some cotton pads and – viola! – I no longer resemble a dirty street urchin (my garden hands are a whole other story, however)

Witch hazel actually has a ton of great uses on the homestead. It can be used on minor cuts and burns, as it has antiseptic and pain-relieving properties. It helps reduce puffy eyes and hemorrhoids, and can be used to soothe diaper rash. And it’s cheap! For a full low-down on the witchiness of witch hazel, check out this post.

3. Hammock.

I pity the hammock-less homesteader. What is the point of living in the great outdoors if you can’t relax and enjoy Mother Nature anytime, anywhere? I have a hammock that is quick and easy to tie up and take down. After spending the morning in the garden, my pup and I go hiking around Serenity and when I find a good spot to rest, (usually by the creek), I tie it up and have a little shut eye. That is, until Maverick or the kids air horn me back to reality. Which brings me to the next item on our list…

Baby Jasper waiting under the hammock while mom tales a lil snooze

4. Air Horn or Megaphone.

This is really only necessary if you have a decent size property to roam but even if you don’t, the megaphone or Air Horn can be a lot of fun- especially for those of us who aren’t afraid to embarrass our children in public. Serenity is a little over 70 acres, so the air horn comes in handy when it’s time to call the kids in for dinner or chores. It also works nicely to to wake mom up from her hammock hiatus

5. Sun Hat

I love my sun hats! Not only do I feel very homesteady when I am wearing one, it also allows me to garden without crying and squinting like a little old lady at her cat’s funeral (was that in poor taste? sometimes I can’t quite tell). The sun hat is also great at fanning away bugs and gnats, covering your face for an afternoon nap (judge much?) and allowing you to forgo your sunglasses so your eyes can absorb the sun’s healing rays and synthesize vitamin D.

6. Mud boots

Nothing makes me feel better than a good pair of mud boots after a rainstorm. It’s like the rain wants to break me down, but it cannot when I have my mud boots at the ready. They actually make walking around in thick sludge sort of fun. Like I can do anything. Bring it.

7. Outdoor Shower/Bath

Like I said, every homestead is different. We technically have a shower in our camper but who wants to be closed into that tiny space when there are other options? So when the weather’s nice and the sun’s shining, there’s nothing I like more than taking a shower outside.

Rigging up a shower station can be as primitive as a bucket of warm water, a bar of soap, a wash cloth and some trees for privacy. You’ll be amazed by how clean a sponge bath can get you! You may need to enlist help of another for washing long hair, though.

During the heat of the summer, in true pioneer spirit, we also often bath in our swimming hole…

Stepping it up a notch is the outdoor fire bath, an amazing contraption I’ve had the pleasure of using many times at my bff’s farm. Talk about pure heaven, bathing under the open sky, water heated to perfection from a fire under the tub. The whole process of building a fire, filling up the tub and waiting for the water to heat up can take hours, which means you’ll really appreciate the experience.

The fire bath is actually really cool and deserves it’s very own post, so we’ll come back to it in the near future. Until I write it though, here’s a tutorial on how to build one.

Taking a shower/bath in the great outdoors, more specifically allowing yourself to be totally stark naked with the sun shining on every part of you, is an extremely invigorating experience. I really think everyone should try it at least once. You never know, it may become your new thing.

 8. Clothes Line With Pulley.

Laundry is the never ending story, weather you homestead or not. On an off-grid operation, things and people get dirty quick. Knowing this, it still took us a whole year of hanging wet clothes and towels willy nilly anywhere we could, tying sagging ropes to trees and tossing the overflow over tree branches (which was about as aesthetically pleasing as it was functional).

Finally, Maverick realized there was a lot on the line, so to speak, and put up a totally rad pulley system with a super long rope that goes high into the trees, never sags, and can handle a full laundry haul. It’s even fun to use. Sometimes its the little things, my friends.

7. Hand Washing Station.

This should probably be at the top of the list. A decent hand washing station is so incredibly convenient and necessary for an off-grid homestead that’s not set up with indoor plumbing yet. It’s also a great to take with you on camping trips, etc. I hate to admit it, but it took me a couple of weeks before I actually set one up, (hey I was just getting used to things!) using instead a cumbersome jug of water.

This clumsy arrangement up did nothing to encourage the family to wash those dirty paws. Finally, realizing we were on the brink of an Ebola outbreak (kidding, kidding), I bought a super cool antique beverage cooler with a spout for ease of washing, filled it with warm water, set out a bar of homemade soap and a clean hand towel and declared we adopt some standards again.

8. Composting Toilet/Outhouse.

Obviously in order to stay anywhere comfortably for more than a few hours, you need somewhere reasonable to relieve yourself. Enter the composting toilet and outhouse. Both of these options require you to live on a little bit of land so as not to freak out your neighbors or create any contamination issues.

The composting toilet can be as simple as a bucket with a toilet seat on top and some wood shavings for coverage, but for more permanent situations, you can easily build a sturdy and comfortable composting toilet with a few supplies and tools.

The outhouse is also rather simple. Basically a nice deep hole in the ground, at least 100 feet away and downhill from any water sources (well, river, spring, etc).

We use a composting toilet as well as an outhouse. When the outhouse fills up, we simply dig another hole and slide it over. (Maverick’s mechanical auger makes this a much easier job than digging by hand, but we do that also).

Composting is seriously not nearly as gross as it sounds (as long as the kids stay up on their bucket duty and we don’t run out of shavings!). It’s an impressively circular system and one I think deserves a lot more consideration.

 10. Sexy handy man who can build/fix anything your heart desires (in due time).

 Homesteader or not, we all need one of these in our lives!

If you’re a homesteader (to any degree), what essential items can’t you live without? Comment below and let me know!

As always, sharing is caring people! Thanks for reading and happy homesteading!

How To Wash Your Dishes Without Running Water: Six Steps To Off-Grid Domestic Success

Ok friends here we have quite possibly one of the most important How To tutorials of your off-grid extreme homesteading life… dishes. Yes, that’s right. More important than solar power, more important than growing food, more important than a composting toilet (ok, now I am exaggerating) is doing your dishes.

After all, dishes make the world go ’round and it is nary a homesteading woman who can live without clean dishes. Unfortunately, they have a tendency to multiply right before your very eyes, popping out dirty creations like the gremlin spawn of a mogwai. And, like a gremlin, they sneer and snarl at you from their crusty perch on the counter, daring you to just try and wash them without running water.

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Fear not, my extreme homesteading friends (or weekend campers), as I have found a pretty decent way to wash your dishes without running water. All you need are the right tools and set up and those evil dishes will no longer have you sleeping with one eye open.

Step 1: Get a Gigantic Pot

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There is one key item to doing your dishes without running water quickly and efficiently and that is the Gigantic Pot. The Gigantic Pot is absolutely essential if you don’t want to spend an entire day heating up small batches of water. And believe me, you don’t. I started off with a Small Pot, and I was not happy. The Gigantic Pot brings me much joy.

Step 2: Get a Long, Crappy Table

Okay so you have your Gigantic Pot. Now you need a long, crappy table. I say crappy table because if you can do your dishes outside on a crappy table, you can slosh water all over the place – which tends to make you feel better about having to do your dishes outside on a crappy table. Get it? I have a nice, crappy eight foot long table that is the perfect length for our size family, or for my lazy housekeeping habits, whichever way you want to look at it. So technically you could use a smaller table and you can also use your actual sink and counter area, but that’s a little boring, don’t you think?

Step 3: Set Up Dish Area.

First, there are a few other things you will need:

  1. Two basins, one for washing and one for rinsing. These are what I currently use. I know they don’t match. Don’t judge me.
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2. A cup with a handle for scooping hot water out of the Gigantic Pot into the wash basin. I use this measuring cup which conveniently hooks right on the handle of my pot when not in use. A match made in heaven.

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3. A jug (or two, depending on your dish load) of clean, cool rinse water next to your rinse basin

4. A sponge or rag to wash dishes and some biodegrable dish soap

5. A drying rack and/or large towel

6. A large bucket to dump dirty dish water into (another option is to just dump directly onto the ground if you are outside and it won’t create a mess.)

7. Compost container to scrape your food scraps into.

Step 4: Heat Up Water

Now we are ready to get to work. I will forewarn you, I like my dish water hot and clean, so I refresh often. I use anywhere from 2-4 gallons of hot water, depending on the dish load. I usually heat up more water than I need, because is saves time and hey I can always take a shower after.

Pour water in your pot and heat it up. One of the many blessings in my extreme homesteading life is my (nearly) full-size propane stove. So heating things up is easy peasy (until we run out of propane right in the middle of making dinner. that is). I just put my Gigantic Pot on the stove, turn two burners on and it heats up quick.

If you don’t have stove yet, you might want to look into getting a portable burner used for camping, if you plan on cooking more than once a week. Of course, if you want to (or need to), you can always go to the maximum extreme and heat your water up over an actual fire (technically the maximum extreme would be rubbing two sticks together to start said fire, but I digress). As romantic as it sounds, however, it’s really a pain in the ass to do everyday. But I have done it and so can you.

However your go about it, the important thing is to get your water HOT. That way it stays nice and hot until the last dirty dish has been hunted down. If your water gets too cool, it is a hassle to reheat and you run the chance of loosing motivation and not finishing the dishes, which does not feel nearly as satisfying as finishing the dishes.

Now scoop your hot water into your wash basin and pour cool water in the rinse basin. If the water is too hot (which it should be if you have been following directions) mix it with a little of the cool water until you get the right temperature. As you work your way down the dirty mountain, the water should cool off to a reasonable temperature. Better hot than not, I say.

Step 5: Wash Your Dishes

Now you wash your dishes. I like to move from the left to right, but to each his own. As your wash basin water cools down and gets dirty, dump it into the waiting receptacle or onto the ground if you prefer and refill with fresh hot water. Same with your rinse water, if it gets too soapy. Finish all the dishes. All of them. It feels good, remember?

Step 6: Call In The Troops

This is about the time I start yelling for Maverick and the girls. Maverick, with his strong shapely arms and equally strong stomach, gets to dump the teeming bucket of dirty dish water. We like to dump it right into the garden beds. depending on the chunks. Yum.

Now its the minions’ turn to help. Remember how we were doing the dishes outside? Well they are the lucky ones that get to haul the clean dishes back inside, put them away all nice and neat and then hang the dish towel on the line to dry until we need it again for a new table-load of dirty dishes, usually about ten minutes later I’d say.

Well there really is no glamorous way to end a dish tutorial, so bye!

thRJFPOBLN

Beautiful Farm Girl Seeks Vegetarian Cowboy: A Law Of Attraction Love Story

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Five years ago I met Maverick, my (mostly) vegetarian cowboy; the man who is making my dreams come true by building me an off-grid, sustainable community surrounded by nature with only his bare hands… and a bulldozer.

While many people say our successful union was a stroke of blind luck,  the very fact he isn’t a serial killer (so far…) defying all odds,  I like to believe our meeting each other was a result of one of my more successful incidents of deliberate manifestation. Either way, one thing is for sure,  our ‘how we met’ story is so utterly unromantic and scandalous that it makes the perfect story for today’s blog post.

Before Maverick, I had dated my share of questionable characters (shocking, I know). Some of these guys were pretty terrible, some were just the typical zombie-types, devoid of any meaningful, independent thoughts. To be fair,  it takes one to date one, so I could only describe myself as a zombie as well.  

Anyway, after having an epic awakening followed by the crumbling of my latest  zombie relationship,  I moved north with my girls to explore community farm life and learn to grow my own food. We moved into a tiny primitive cabin (or shack as Mav likes to call it) on a small farm in a quaint country town in mid-west, America.  

It was a bold move to be sure, some would even call it reckless. Yet it remains to be one of the best decisions of my life. 

I spent an idyllic spring and summer pulling weeds and tending seeds (both figuratively and literally), eventually deciding I felt emotionally healthy enough to meet someone great. I had dumped some baggage (though come to find out, not all of it!) and was confident in my newfound creative abilities to attract a great mate into my experience.

So now that I was ready to date, the question was, where would I meet someone? After all, I lived in a tiny cabin on a farm in a city where I did not know anyone. I was not working outside of the farm. My hosts were great and I was quickly becoming best friends with the head lady of the farm. But her husband was oooolllldddd. Like just-suffered-a-heart-attack old. And so were all his friends. (In the interest of full disclosure the odd social structure on the farm consisted of a lot of young, lively, fit farm girls and a handful of really old dudes. It’s no surprise my city friends were convinced I had joined a cult!)

Anyway, back to the love story…

I am not a very patient person. When I make a decision, it pretty much has to happen right now. So once I had decided to meet someone, I was not content to just wait for fate to bring him to me. Taking a proactive approach to dating clearly left me with only one option: Online dating. (Sidebar: This was in 2013, just as dating apps were really gaining in popularity. Good thing I am usually a few years behind the latest trends or Mav and I might have never met seeing as how he still carries a flip phone).

So I crafted a clever profile, with vegetarinism and cowboyism a clear prerequisite, and joined a popular dating site (or two). However,  the selections were very few and far between of people who shared any of my interests (who wants to go roam the woods barefoot? … anyone?)

 I met a few guys that could never be pinned down to an actual date or were, um, a bit different than their pictures. Yet not a single cowboy. Basically, the process was long and drawn out and not worth the money. I felt using the dating sites just served as a buffer to immediate communication and actual interaction. Looking back, I wonder if maybe it also served as some sort of safety feature… hmm…

So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and create a Craigslist Personals Ad.

Now I know you are all gasping in absolute horror.

And I agree, Craigslist personals are teeming with filth and debauchery of all kind. But seriously guys, it is not like I advertised my address or any other personal information. I also did not include a picture or make any references to sexual fetishes. It’s all good, people. Calm down.  

What I did do is remain 100% convinced that I could find an amazing person anywhere I put my mind to, as long as I believed. 

So, yes. Maverick and I met on Craigslist. I put out an add, he ignored my very specific qualifications (vegetarian, yo!)  and responded. I decided to overlook my non-negotiable standards based on the fact that he owned a huge lot of land and seemed willing to let me do whatever I wanted with it. 

From the very beginning, our dates have consisted of wondering aimlessly around the woods. That is literally all we do, other than the whole homesteading thing. He has more patience with me than my own mother. He never yells or demeans me when I lose the car keys, or my driver’s license, or drain the batteries for the millionth time (okay, well, he does lose his patience over that one, but the first 100 times he didn’t even bat an eye). 

Seriously though, Maverick is 100 percent cowboy, 90 percent vegetarian (thanks to my many years of food shaming him), and the sweetest, kindest, safest, calmest, pure-of-heartist man I have ever met. He is so amazingly capable and smart and warrior-minded, I have full confidence we would survive a zombie apocalypse completely unscathed. He is my knight in dirty work boots. 

And there you have the most epic, unromantic love story of all time. Swoon. 

Remember, if you want miracles to happen you have to BELIEVE they can.

P.S. This post is in no way an endorsement for Craigslist Personals or any other form of online dating. It’s just a story, people. Date at your own risk! 

Namaste, my friends 

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How To Become An Enlightened Christian In Five Fearless Steps

I grew up in a typical Christian home. My siblings and I were all involved in various church activities and my parents talked often about God and Jesus, albeit from a strict biblical perspective.

Most of the time we considered ourselves Methodists, though we did get a little wild for a few years as Pentecostals. By my teen years, we had settled into one of those huge mega-churches. You know, the kind with stellar music, fancy-pants coffee stations and zero risk of having to talking to someone you don’t know?

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My Three Dads!

Anyway, having grown up with some very clear definitions of what it meant to be saved (hallelujah!), what the trinity was (three dudes in one, man), heaven and hell, sin, etc., I always struggled to be a ‘good’ Christian girl. I mean, I didn’t struggle so much as in actually trying to be good. That just wasn’t my style. But I did struggle with the shame that came from being a sinner, especially a woman sinner, (burn her at the stake!)  and deep down I struggled with not feeling so great about the  â€śYou were born a sinner” slogan.

To be honest, there were more than a few things I didn’t buy into. For example, we have in the old testament an enraged, war-hungry, rather fanatically jealous God, obliterating entire villages of innocents, desiring sacrificed blood, and gifting out virgins to his favorite followers.

Then Jesus comes along for a little while and things seem to get better (especially if you can read between the lines) but as soon as he is offed, we go back to getting all our advice from another ego-maniac patriarchal slave-supporter, otherwise known as Paul.

And then there is this business of the all-male, Holy Trinity which is at the core of evangelical Christianity. We are told to believe we, as children of God, are the offspring of three males in one, no females needed. It would seem the whole of nature reflects otherwise, yet I suppose infallible is infallible. I mean, hey, who am I to question divine inspiration?

Step One: Ask For Help

Yes, I knew my bible facts. Unfortunately, rather than compelling me to claim Jesus as my Lord and Savior, they were repelling me. Something wasn’t right. I was actively seeking. I wanted, I desired, I craved to understand this God thing. The infinite energy that creates worlds pulsed in me, yet I could not claim it. It was a time of despair, it was a time of loneliness, unhealthy relationships, financial struggles.  I desired intensely to know God, to connect to something bigger than myself, but I was failing to do it in the context of mainstream Christian doctrine. I began praying earnestly for a mentor, thinking that a wise Christian woman would be able to sort it all out for me.

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Step Two: Relax and Let Go

And then something awesome happened. God brought me my mentor, in the guise of my best friend.  After (another) argument with my (at the time)  beau, I ended up having a rare and impromptu sleep over at her house, She introduced me to something different, something called “The Law of Attraction” by Abraham Hicks.

Oh, I was resistant at first. My old belief system was whispering, “this is the devil’s work”. When she told me it was channeled material, I almost suggested we hold an exorcism right then and there. But my mentor, wise sage that she is, told me to relax and just be open to the message, without judging it.  So I did.

Step Three: Be Here Now

Driving home with my kids the next morning, I felt noticeably better. Something had clicked. I understood more about the mysteries and the mechanics of the Universe than had ever been taught to me before. I was beginning to play around with the idea of being a ‘vibrational being’. I decided to pay attention to how I felt, noticing the contrast between feeling good and feeling bad, and choosing to think thoughts that felt good. I recognized how I was always in my head, rarely in the moment. So I decided to be in the moment with my kids, enjoying our Now for what it was. A major breakthrough had been made.

Step Four: Release Fear

From then on, things were different. I finally had ‘ears to hear and eyes to see’. As I scoured through my mainstream bible, I began to put together little clues about what was missing (deliberately edited, perhaps?).  Rather than seeking answers outside of myself (the bible, a preacher, my dad), I could trust my own intuition – provided it was not clouded by fear and doubt. I was empowered.  I began to work on releasing myself from fear-based thoughts and opening myself up to trusting the larger part of me that vibrates with unconditional love, the same vibration God holds, that ultimately is God.

Step Five: Collect Your Jewels

Now I allow myself to question freely, to pray for clarity,  and to trust the evidence as I come across it, whether it be an ancient text or an absolute inner knowing.  I am learning to shake off the fear-based lies of my traditional Christian roots, the ridiculous claims and ego-centric imposters,  while treasuring the many shining jewels of Truth. I have merged these jewels with new ones of my own discovery and feel incredibly confident and at peace that I am finally on my way to understanding God and by default, my own inner being.

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