Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Care for Your Water Canal to Ease Flow

Tilled garden, starting to fence it in.
In my last post I mentioned that I bartered for a tiller. It has been of tremendous use around the homestead. Not only did I till up our new garden area but I was also able to till out the water canal by the street. This canal, as it was explained to me by a neighbor, is my responsibility to keep cleared out so that when adjoining farmers begin to flood irritate their crops and it comes flowing into my runoff canal, it doesn't back up into the street.

If it gets to the street because my canal is clogged with debris, the city comes out and shuts off the water...to EVERYONE. At least, that's what I was told. So I dutifully spent a few hours trenching out the canal to excellent condition. My only options were digging out by hand with a shovel or tilling it out with my new Husqvarna.

The tiller option was not necessarily less labor, as I thought it would be given it is powered by a motor, but served to be quite a struggle to hold in place as the front mount tines dug through years of overgrowth and uneven canal walls. By the time I was finished, however, the canal was equal distance from side to side and the same depth all the way down the canal. I was quite impressed. My shoulder and back muscles...not so much.

With that project complete, I've turned my focus back to our new garden. There are still fencing bales remaining so I began to put up a perimeter fence. I placed the t-posts ten feet apart which in retrospect seems to be too far apart. I unrolled the bale and hooked my new garden tractor up to it. With the aid of the tractor, I was able to pull the fencing taut and tie it with wire. Two loops around and twisted at the top, middle and bottom of each post held it good and tight.

My new garden tractor pulled the kids around the yard
I got as far as my supplies would allow and am now waiting for more posts to complete the project. About ten more posts should do it as I have ample fencing wire for this project. I'm now eyeballing the area adjacent to the garden for a possible goat pen.

Oh, and I bartered for the garden tractor. I traded to full-sized arcade games that we had in storage. The kids weren't too thrilled but, then again, they weren't the ones responsible for mowing three acres. The Craftsman riding mower is awesome. It's used and worn but I still love having it.


Monday, March 23, 2015

What If You Run Out of Money?

My new tiller
Let's face it...who hasn't run out of money at some point in their lives? The point of this post is to show you that cash isn't always king in the real world. Handheld physical assets will always be an acceptable form of exchange.

Trust me. I just did it tonight.

One thing we sorely needed on our new homestead was a tiller to begin our new garden. Tillers can be bought from stores for hundreds of dollars. They can also be rented from equipment rental stores by the day or week.

We are low on funds from our recent move to Idaho so I had to think outside the box. One method of finding things you need, which I have shared here before, is using a CraigsList application on your computer or cell phone to notify you when someone posts something you want for sale. I input several items into my app like "tiller", "freezer", "shed" and such. Then, when someone posts an add selling something with those keywords in the title, I get an email or text notification.

The quicker you act on the notification, the better the chance you can score it. Tonight was just such a night for me.

Someone posted a used Husqvarna tiller for $300. I looked up this tiller on Google and found it for sale (new) at Sears for $459. Having no cash, but knowing what items are ALWAYS in demand, I quickly contacted the seller and offered a trade.

I said "Your tiller is just what I'm looking for to start our garden but I have no cash. Would you be interested in trading for something that goes bang?"

His immediate reply was "Absolutely!"

I sent him a few photos of my 12g shotgun bought at last years Black Friday sale over at Cal-Ranch in Flagstaff. It was a $300-350 semi-auto that they had on sale for $199 (only seven were sold at that price.) I had only fired it twice so it was still in pristine condition.

I quickly headed to his house and reviewed the tiller. It barely showed any signs of use and fired up on the first pull of the cord. I was sold! I showed him the shotgun and the deal was done. We wrote up a quick contract of sale and down the road I went.

With no cash to speak of and payday still three days away, I am now a proud owner of a shiny new ORANGE Husqvarna front tine tiller.

Garden, here I come!

Don't be afraid to think outside the box. Offer services (like yard work, babysitting, etc) or items for trade and you'll be surprised what you might get.

My past barters:


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Off to a Terrific Start

1st batch, mostly Americaunas.
Boy oh boy are we off to a great start on our new homestead. I haven't blogged much because I've been so busy doing what we've been training to do for years.

If you've been following my blog (are you two still out there?) you'll know we've been preparing to be homesteaders for about seven years. We started in Mesa, Arizona with a cookie-cutter home crammed between two other homes in a packed subdivision.

We determined that smog filled, crime infested, traffic laden city life was no longer for us. We started studying SurvivalBlog.com, Rural-Revolution.com, and similar websites to learn what we didn't know...how to be self sufficient. YouTube helped tremendously thanks to some folks like LDSprepper, WranglerStar, Engineer775 and the like.

Most people, I think, sit back and say "We don't know how" or "I don't have time" and never start. We made a conscious decision to start no matter what. We began planting gardens on our 0.17 acre city house and attempted to raise chickens. I started learning how to handle different weapons and Wifey started sewing, canning, dehydrating, and crafting.

Simple swing does wonders for children (and teens!)
Did we succeed? Not as much as we would have liked but we learned a huge amount of knowledge. Our chickens were quickly eaten by our dog and our garden succeeded about one third of the time.

I began slowly collecting hand tools and items we could use for self sufficiency. I have about fifteen 55 gallon drums that I've been towing around the country that will someday be a rain water collection system, better than the simple two barrel system I experimented with in Mesa.  Along the way, I acquired an 8 x 10 enclosed trailer and slowly built it into a mobile workshop.

Enjoying a gun show less than one mile from my house.
If you aren't where you plan to be permanently, don't let that stop you. As a renter, my approach was to make everything modular. Make a workshop that I could tow behind my truck and take it with us when we moved. Same for the garden. Build raised bed garden boxes that can be put in the back of a truck if you move. Same for chicken coops...they can be mobile too.

Fast forward to now. We have attained our three acre paradise and can easily slide into gardening, building rain catchments, canning, planting our orchard, etc.

In the past two months (we've been here for almost three), we've have:

  1. planted apple trees x 2, pear trees x 2, peach trees x 2, raspberry bushes x 2, blueberry bushes x 2, strawberries and herbs. (video link) Trees were $11.69 at the CostCo in town.
  2. built two pig pens to hold the 4 or  5 swine we will be raising for 4H projects in this May.
  3. rebuilt a Briggs and Stratton hand push lawnmower (you can't beat a good B&S engine) and slowly started to mow the property. Two were left on our homestead = free!
  4. consulted a local honey grower and learned how to start our own hive this August. (Video link)
  5. purchased 32 chicks at a local coop sale at a wonderfully low price of $0.89 each! Got some different  breeds but mostly blue egg layers ("easter eggers") to make for a colorful assortment.
  6. built a swing for the little girls to solve some "boredom" issues in our new home.
  7. restored an old timey self playing piano which provides HOURS of enjoyment.
  8. acquired a 1950s large freezer for the garage, absolutely FREE from CraigsList. This will be a necessity when we start harvesting our own pork later this year.
  9. Rewired an old Oreck vacuum cleaner and it now cleans our carpet.
  10. Refurbished Grandpa's old work stool as a Valentine's Day present. (video link)
  11. Built a craft room hide-away for Wifey. (video link)
The first four trees of our "some day" orchard.
I can't tell you have exciting it is to finally be on the property we've been praying for. I still have to figure out what to do with about an acre and a half of pasture. With only three water shares, a neighbor tells me that it isn't enough to grow a crop. Maybe if I can collect water in my rain catchment system that it would be enough to subsidize what my three shares won't cover.

Now that I have 32 chicks, I'll need to build them a home in the next couple of weeks. They live in a box in the garage for now. I'm thinking two or three chicken tractors, strategically moved about the property can serve a dual purpose: weed control and free food.

Other projects I am considering:

  • solar panel similar to LDSprepper's to provide electricity for the whole house for less than half of what we pay to the utility company.
  • meal worm farm for chicken food (I hear they practically grow themselves).
  • a craftroom shed in the backyard for Wifey.
  • build an enclosed hoop garden to protect our stuff during the winter months.
  • build a one room shed in the backyard for the teens to hang out in
  • someday, maybe someday, build a ride-able sized mini train to ride around the homestead perimeter (gotta think of the future grandkids!)

I welcome your comments.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Help Identifying a Bush

I inherited a garden in front of my new home and I'm not sure what I have so..

We'll start with what I hope is a blueberry bush.

It has little dark blue or black berries on it from last season.

Any ideas?

Thanks in advance.


Monday, March 9, 2015

Planting Question: berries between fruit trees?

Our first four in our orchard.
We planted our first four fruit trees this past weekend. We planted two apple and two pear trees that we bought from CostCo for $11.69 each. There was no documentation on how far apart to plant them so I marked them 12 feet apart.

Wifey went out today and came home with two raspberry and two blueberry bushes. I'm wondering if I can plant them inbetween the fruit trees?

You see, I originally planted the trees six feet apart. Then I reconsidered, dug more holes, and moved the trees further apart so there are holes I could use for the berry bushes in between each tree.

They all (the trees and berries) say "full sun" which is where they are planted.

Does anyone have any pro's or con's to doing this? Can they be watered on the same schedule?


Friday, March 6, 2015

In Pursuit of My Masters

The view from the door nearest my classroom at Weber State.
This week was school week for me. I returned to campus at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah for my twice-a-semester mandatory classroom sessions. I can't complain because the rest of the semester is all handled online. Typically it is a two day session of seminars and classes. This particular visit contained three days with one of them being specifically centered on how to write a thesis paper (which I am NOT looking forward to.)

When I worked the night shift it was easy to complete homework during downtime and not drag school work into family time. It's not so easy now that I work an 8-5 job but I'm not complaining. At least I have the opportunity to earn more education. Usually I take a kid with me to accompany me on the trip. It gives us bonding time and plants the seed for what college life could be like for them. So far, everyone who has gone with me has loved it.

Frosty parked outside the place I stayed (no snow upon arrival)
This trip started out dry on the day I traveled to Utah but I woke up to several inches of snow. I almost got stuck in the parking lot the first day of class thanks to several inches of snow and my 3/4 ton 'burban with two wheel drive. Frosty, the Suburban I bought back from the insurance company after it was totaled in our house fire, cost me $400 to get back into my name with a salvage title. That poor old 'burban has been through a lot but it keeps trucking along. Got me all the way to Ogden and back  (not to mention pulled Jack, our Volvo, all the way from Arizona to Idaho).

Speaking of earning it, the education is costing me about $3500 per semester and there are four semesters. $12,000 is really cheap on the grand scale of obtaining a Masters degree. Most degrees at this level cost much, much more. I'm hoping to find some scholarships to help along the way. That doesn't include books, hotels, gas or food.

Eating my sammich in class...mmmmm...
I took along as much food as I thought I would need for the trip. A bucket of smoked almonds, a few ham sammiches, some granola bars and a water bottle. I made it through day two before I hit a Subway for a $5 footlong.

As most things usually go, this trip didn't end without a big, fat fubar event. I struck up a partnership, so to speak, with a local ski resort in Eden, Utah. The first time I stay, I swapped a few days of our timeshare for a few days for a place to stay for school. The ski resort was nice and not too far from campus. After telling the resort that I was a student traveling (at that time) from Arizona to obtain my degree, they began to offer me a low price for every visit. The protocol called for me to call them just a day or two in advance of class and as long as they didn't have all their rooms booked, they would let me have one for $39 per night.

A whole family of these guys reside on campus. I see them every year.
On this trip, they ran out of rooms at the main ski resort  but were able to place me at their sister location at the bottom of the mountain. The price for three nights were offered at $149 which was higher than usual but still couldn't be beat for the location and accommodation. The fubar occurred during checkout. The front office gal accidentally charged me $200 but quickly promised to get $50 of it immediately reversed. The next day, when I looked to see if it had truly been reversed, I noticed it had actually be debited $200 AGAIN. Now I'm out $400 when I should have only been charged $149.

Found a note in my lunch...
It's always something, no matter what. My windshield on Frosty cracked for no reason too. I think it was my defrost putting out hot air on a frozen windshield. I've heard of people pouring hot water on a frosty windshield hoping to clear away  their view only to end up cracking the windshield from the heat hitting the cold window. I guess this is what happened between my defroster and cold windshield...only I've never had it happen before.

Neither incident bothered me much. The money will sort out. The windshield crack is on passenger side and doesn't affect my view. It's a $400 car...who cares about a cracked windshield? You can't let all the little set backs get you down because they happen all the time. With nobody tagging along on this trip, I was able to crank out several weeks worth of homework in three days. It's almost Spring Break and I'm almost caught up on homework.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Amazon Contest Winner Announced! ($50 Amazon Card)

 A few posts ago I blogged about using an electric dog fence. I made a contest and opened it up to anyone who shared or commented. The prize is a $50 Amazon gift card and I picked the winner using a random number generator.

I simply numbered the commenters starting with the first comment as #1 and went down the list. The random number generator picked #3.


Kim Johnson!

Please use my Contact Me link on the top tool bar to send me your email address and I will email your prize to you within a few days.

Thanks again to everyone who participated. I wish I had gifts for all of you.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled program...