Homesteading and Livestock
Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

How to Buy a Homestead for Cash

Pay off Homestead

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Six years ago, my wife Jen and I purchased our 20-acre homestead for cash. We worked hard for many years and saved and used our own money. We are average people, neither of us went to college. We both started out at minimum wage jobs and we didn’t inherit any money. If we could pay of our homestead (by age 35) we think that anybody could do it.  And this is how we’d do it if we had to start over again today. 

The last six years with ZERO mortgage have been amazing. We have more freedom to do what we want and instead of paying a huge chunk of money each month for that mortgage we’ve been able to reinvest that money in ourselves, our homestead business ventures and improving our property which is a great long term investment.  We’ve also been able to make decisions we couldn’t have if we were stuck at a job we hated because we were scared to quit because of a mortgage hanging over our heads. 

WHAT if we started out today? How would we buy a homestead for cash if we started over? Here is what we came up with as our plan. We also did a video version here-  

Write Down Your Frugal-Living Goal

The first thing we’d do is write down a specific goal. Then we would both work very hard, take all the overtime we could and we would be frugal like you’ve never seen. This is what we did in order to save for our current homestead.  When we say frugal we mean it. No fancy smartphones, no Starbucks or out to each and absolutely NO car payments. The last three cars we purchased were all for under $1400 cash (we did a video on it) in the 10 years leading up to buying our homestead we’ve saved over $70,000 by purchasing used vehicles instead of new!

We’ve never owned a new car and we never used credit cards. Even six years later we have plenty of disposable income to afford a car payment and I still won’t do it. A $500 (or more plus higher insurance) payment is the last thing I want. Instead we take that $500 and put it to work for us. For example we put it towards our homestead dog kennel OR our homestead AirBnB rental or our YouTube channel and that $500 will continue to grow. That new car smell fades fast and the amount of freedom traded for it is just not worth it to us.

Patience Pays

We would be patient. Right now real estate prices are crazy-high and that bubble will burst. Real estate is a great investment and it will always trend up, but while it tends up there are many peaks and valleys. We saw this in 2008 and then the prices dropped. I believe that the current boom will bust and prices will come back down. I would patiently wait to purchase while frugal saving and working overtime. 

Some Options Make More Sense than Others

When the market comes back to reality we would go one of two routes:

  • Buy land and build or 
  • Buy a foreclosure or major fixer-upper.

More on this below. We would look for an opportunity that could also lead to future business revenue. For example our current homestead is a 2 family. So we’d look for something with rental potential that could be a large basement or attic that could be converted or a two family/duplex. I’d also look for something maybe near a busy road so that we could potentially sell firewood or have a produce cart. I would look for something with room for an orchard. I would strongly consider the potential business revenue my future homestead could generate.

Our current homestead makes money from Airbnb (over 20k per year) our new Dog Kennel, our Youtube channel, we’ve sold eggs and we have enough forest that we could sustainably sell firewood. Those are some ideas worth considering.

Consider Options for Working Without an Agent

Personally, I would NOT buy from a real estate agent. I would buy for sale by owner or foreclosed. A real estate agent can in many cases increase the price by 6-9+% and any chance of getting a good deal is often lost.  I know this because I was a licensed real estate agent for six years. Real estate agents almost all work for the seller and its their job to get the most money for the seller. 

Temporary Living While You Prepare

If we found land, we would dig an outhouse and put up our 10-by-12 all-weather wall tent. It has a wood stove and it can be cozy year round. We’d dig a well by hand and we’d live in the wall tent while we built our permanent house. Depending on the situation we’d maybe build a tiny house on wheels to live in while we saved up more for our permanent house. We’d live frugal and minimal while we build our permanent homestead house. Then we’d sell the tiny house or rent it out.

Another options is we’d search for a property with just a metal building on it. Not as common but they are out there. In fact three miles from here we drive by one all the time. Someone bought the metal building on a 20-acre parcel and they live in an RV outside it. We’d do the same but instead build an insulated apartment inside the metal building for a reasonable cost. Then we’d save and slowly work to build our main homestead home. Once the main home is done we could move into it and rent out the apartment! Another option is we could live in the wall tent and build a log cabin on our homestead.

Search Tax Records

When it comes to searching for property there are tons of websites like or but another option for land is to search tax records. Most states have online tax record parcel maps. One tactic I would consider is searching these maps in an area I am interested in. In my area, I have countless 20- and 40-acre parcels surrounding my home. Most of this is hunting land. I suspect much of it is rarely used some of it may have been inherited. We’d  search the online tax record parcel maps and look for properties that way.

If the mailing address on file didn’t match the parcel itself then we’d know the owner likely doesn’t live on the parcel. We’d write up a bunch of letters and mail them to these folks to see if any want to sell or perhaps subdivide a 40-acre parcel into two, 20-acre parcels. It would not be easy but I am sure with enough work we could find a seller and NOT have to compete with the hundreds of buyers finding properties on In a similar way, we’d search local papers and Craigslist for for sale by owner properties that are not listed on MLS/Zillow. 

While it wouldn’t be easy and it could take many years, we are confident we could purchase another homestead for cash.

Kerry W. Mann, Jr. moved to a 20-acre homestead in 2015, where he and his family use modern technology, including YouTube and, to learn new skills and teach homestead projects. Connect with Kerry on his Homestead How YouTube page, Instructables, Pinterest,  Facebook, and at My Evergreen Homestead. Read all of Kerry’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here

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Why We Use Reusable Canning Lids

Canning jars with reusable lids 

Canned tomatoes. Photo by Kat Ludlam

As canning supply shortages cause troubles for canners across the nation, the idea of having reusable lids becomes even more appealing. Surprisingly, many people who preserve their food with canning don’t even know the reusable lids exist. We first found out about Tattler Reusable Canning Lids 8 years ago, after we had already been canning for a decade. We were surprised that we had never heard of them before then, but were excited about the possibility of using them. We bought a few boxes, tried them out, and have never gone back to the metal lids.


One of the reasons we decided to make the switch to reusable lids was “just in case there comes a time we can’t buy canning lids.”  At the time it seemed like such a remote possibility, and yet, here we are, 8 years later, and it is a reality. The pandemic caused shortages in many products, including canning lids.

Whenever we use a product on our homesteads that we are required to constantly re-purchase we are making ourselves dependent on the stores to keep going. We will never be able to be completely self-sustaining, but choosing to replace what items we can with reusable is a good step towards being less dependent on others and less effected when shortages occur.

Environmental Impact

Another reason to make the switch is that it creates less garbage, which is better for the environment. The amount of garbage we humans create and bury every day is immense, and any cut-backs we can make to that pile of garbage are helpful.

Tattler Canning Lids

Tattler reusable canning lids. Photo by Kat Ludlam 

Financial Savings

If you are planning to can food year after year then the reusable lids will not only pay themselves off, but save you money over and over again. Back when I purchased my first reusable lids, I calculated it out and found that if each lid was used 3 times it would pay itself off. That was over 8 years ago, and since I reuse the jars and rings each year as well, I have paid absolutely nothing for canning supplies for almost 6 years running now. Surprisingly, the prices on canning lids have barely increased over the last 8 years, so the savings are likely quite similar now as they were when I did my calculations. The lids are guaranteed to last a lifetime. But, over time, the rubber rings will lose their flexibility and will need to be replaced. Customers have reported them lasting ten years or more. I have not had to replace mine yet. For someone who cans regularly year after year, the savings on lids when you switch to reusable are well worth the transition.

No matter which reasons appeal to you the most, consider trying out reusable lids this canning season. If you are like us, you will find them to be an excellent addition to your homestead kitchen.

Kat Ludlam has been homesteading in Colorado for 15 years now. She and her husband, Daniel, are the owners of Willow Creek Farm, where they breed specialty wool sheep, milk sheep, chickens, and crops that thrive in their location. They also own and run a custom fiber processing mill, Willow Creek Fiber Mill . Kat loves to feed her family from their land, and teach others to homestead as well. Read all of Kat’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Building An Emergency Poultry Kit


Poultry emergency kit, photo by Fala Burnette

Have you ever heard the line about “prior proper planning”? The basis of the phrase, regardless of the way you may have heard it told, is that preparation ahead of time can help prevent a negative outcome. The same can be said for those who have a backyard flock or are considering adding poultry to their residence. I speak from experience when I say that having an emergency kit for your animals can sometimes be a lifesaver, and that there are moments when you do not have the ability to drive 30+ minutes away living rurally to the nearest store in hopes they have what you need in stock. At times, there will be things your store may not carry, and waiting on something to be delivered in the mail could be pushing the clock on potentially helping your animal.          

I recently reached out to the community of BackYard Chickens, a massive online forum of dedicated poultry enthusiasts that I’ve been a member of for over 6 years, and asked users to provide input for basic supplies that can benefit poultry keepers. There were many great suggestions, and I have compiled some of those basic and suggested items below. Many of these are products we have used ourselves over the years to help our own chickens and ducks. You will find helpful, clickable links that lead you to product listings for some of these items. Please keep in mind, seek the care and advice of an avian veterinarian if you have one (try and find a name and number BEFORE you need it), but here are some poultry emergency kit suggestions to have on hand. (Disclosure: the following are Amazon Affiliate links, meaning if a product is purchased directly via the link it provides a little support to the Homestead here, thank you!)-

Other supplies can include things such as cotton swabs, cotton balls, other poultry vitamins, heating pad, heat lamp, small extra waterer and feeder for isolation, a closed container to put your supplies in, and cleaning supplies for the workspace around your bird(s) such as bleach. Again, please consult an avian veterinarian if at all possible, and thoroughly read instructions and research before using any product. Hopefully this list will provide you with the incentive and basics to create your own poultry emergency kit. Let us know what you have in YOUR kit!

Fala Burnette is a homesteader with her husband at Wolf Branch Homestead in Alabama. They are currently building their own log cabin and milling their own lumber, along with raising heirloom crops in the Spring and tanning furs during the Winter. They have a small flock of rescued chickens and Khaki Campbell ducks. Read all of Fala's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Using a Broody Hen to Raise Hatchery Chicks

mother hen teaching her chicks to eat 

Mother hen teaching her chicks to eat. Photo by Kat Ludlam

Is it possible for a broody hen to raise chicks purchased from the store and/or hatched in an incubator? Yes! Using a hen to brood chicks means less work for you and a more natural experience for the chicks. We find that the chicks that we let our hens raise learn to eat and drink sooner and have a lower chick mortality rate. It also helps when it is time to integrate them with the flock, as the mama hen will protect them and help them integrate into the group.

There are a few things to keep in mind before trying to get your hen to adopt chicks.

Be Willing to Brood the Chicks Yourself

Before you undertake this process, you need to be willing and able to brood the chicks in case it doesn’t work. You can’t count 100% on the hen. So be sure you have what you need and are able to brood the chicks yourself if things don’t go well.

Use an Experienced Hen

Next, you need to make sure the hen you choose to use has successfully hatched and raised chicks on her own before. This ensures that she knows how to raise chicks and decreases the chance that she will abandon or reject the chicks.

Also, the hen needs to be in the mood to set and brood. You can’t just bring chicks to a hen that has raised them before and expect her to take them. She needs to want to set. Since you are using a hen that has set before, you should be able to tell when she is getting serious about setting. Some typical behaviors include spending most of the day, day after day, on the nest, and puffing up her body and being aggressive when you try to mess with the nest. Watch her for a few days to be sure that she is really serious about setting - you don’t want her to quit halfway through. Also, be sure that she is set up in a nest that is safe for chicks. It needs to be at ground level and there needs to be space around it for her and the chicks to move around together.

Mother hen with chicks 

Mother hen with chicks. Photo by Kat Ludlam

Fake Eggs

Once you are sure that your hen is going to set, give her fake eggs (you can buy ceramic or wood ones at most feed stores). Let her set on them for about 2-3 weeks so that her body can go through the process of an incubation, even if it is a “fake” incubation. An actual incubation of chicken eggs takes about 21 days. Meanwhile, order your chicks, or get the incubator going – lining everything up to have the chicks ready after the 2–3-week period of fake setting.

You need to give her newly-hatched chicks. You can’t give her older ones or she is likely to reject them. Over about 3 days old is probably not going to work as well.

Adoption Day

Be sure her living quarters are safe and set up for chicks. The nest needs to be on ground level. Set up food and water dishes that are designed for chicks, and put chick starter feed in the food dish.

Once the chicks are ready you can carefully remove her eggs and gently put all the chicks under her at the same time. Some people say to do this at night so that she is sleepy, but I have not found that to be best. It is important to keep an eye on things until you are confident that it will work. I prefer to give the chicks to her in the morning or midday so I can watch closely until they are bonded, and so they will be bonded before night comes.

It should be clear pretty quickly whether she plans to adopt them or not. If she is going to adopt them, she should be in the “broody hen” body posture, which is kind of squatting with her wings slightly out from her body so the babies can go under her and under her wings. She will start talking to them in a voice that is specific to a mama hen clucking to her babies. If she becomes at all aggressive with them you should remove them immediately and brood them yourself.

Hen in broody posture, squatted down with wings out slightly

Hen in broody posture, squatted down with wings out slightly. Photo by Kat Ludlam

If she seems wishy-washy about the situation, then just stay close by and give her time to decide.

At first the chicks will be confused because they didn’t hatch under her and aren’t exactly sure what a Mama is yet. We watch them, and if the chicks are wandering around, we gently put them back under her every so often and encourage them to stay near her. If it is cold out, we stay with them until we are confident that the chicks know to go to her for heat - we don’t want any wandering off and getting chilled. If it is hot out, we stay long enough to be sure that Mama hen wants them, and then we check back often to be sure everything is going well.  

By the end of the first day, they should be bonded and at this point the hardest part is done! Let her raise them just like she would raise chicks she hatched on her own.

Using your broody hen to raise chicks from your incubator or chicks that you buy at the store will make raising the chicks much less work for you, help integrate them with the rest of your flock, and give both the hen and the chicks a more natural experience.

Kat Ludlam spent 14 years homesteading at high-altitude in the Rockies and now is building a new homestead in the high plains of Colorado. She and her husband, Daniel, are the owners of Willow Creek Farm, where they breed both long-wool and fine-wool sheep, milk sheep, Nubian goats, chickens, ducks, and crops that thrive in their location. Kat loves to feed her family from their land, and teach others to homestead as well. Check out Kat and Daniel’s custom fiber-processing business, Willow Creek Fiber Mill, and read all of Kat’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Homeschool with Confidence: Custom Design Your High School Curriculum

home school graduate

Successfully graduate from high school at home, photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

Does teaching a high schooler intimidate you? How about explaining algebra or trigonometry? Does teaching essay writing frighten you? You’ve successfully home schooled your child through the elementary and middle school years, but is it really possible to continue? Can you effectively prepare them for college or a career?

Yes! Not only are you capable, but continuing to home educate at this point can give your child a head start on both college and a career path. Your child has unique interests and abilities. You’ve seen in the previous years what some of these are. Continue talking with them about what they’d like to pursue. Then begin designing their high school curriculum to help them achieve those goals.

 high school curriculum

High School Curriculum, photo courtesy of Pixabay

Write out the following:

  1. What high school courses are required by your state home school laws?
  2. What unique interests and talents does your child have?
  3. List the required, and any additional, courses that would help your child pursue those interests
  4. What strengths do you, your spouse, or extended family bring to bear on these topics?
  5. Which courses might you need to seek outside help with?

To learn which courses may be required for high school students, click on your state at In Virginia, where we home schooled, there were no specific course requirements since the state employs testing for home school students instead. This left us free to focus a number of courses on our son’s interests. If this is true for you, you can still look up your state’s department of education to see what courses they require of students in the public school system.  That will give you a starting point of possible courses to consider.

 follow their dreams

Design curriculum around your child's passions, photo by Sheryl Campbell

Our son was musical and already ran a commercial horticultural operation when he started high school so we designed some math, science and business courses around those interests. We gave him credit for his piano, voice, and cello lessons and performances. What lights up your child’s passions? Computer enthusiasts can go beyond basics to take online software certificate courses for which you give them credit. Any young person hoping to run their own business will benefit from taking Consumer Math and doing an internship with someone already running their own business. Is your child a hands-on tinkerer? Have them intern a few hours a week at a local repair shop and assign them to write out (or just tell you) what they’ve learned each week.

Where you, or someone else in your nearby family don’t have the knowledge to teach a particular course, consider hiring a private teacher, tutor, or mentor to work with your child in that area. Or team up with another home schooling family and trade some teaching with them in areas where you each excel.

 start a business

 Make starting a business, or two, part of high school, photo by Sheryl Campbell

Get a Jump Start on a Career

Home schooling, even for high school, takes up so much less of the day then going to a large group educational setting. Use those extra hours to help your child gain experience running some type of small business. In fact, you can design a for-credit high school course out of this:

  • Help your child come up with ideas for a small business they can run now
  • Have your child research how to start a business in your state
  • Take them to meet with your county business licensing office to learn more
  • If your state has a one-stop small business group, have your child set up a meeting with them
  • Your child should identify several like businesses in the area and contact them for an informational interview with each owner/manager
  • Help them to write a simple business plan
  • Recommend that they ask a like business to let them do a short, unpaid internship to learn more
  • Have them start, market, and run their business (give them a small nest egg to get going if they don’t have money of their own yet)
  • Count this as a full credit course for high school if they spend a year doing all of the above

Start and Finish College Early

If your child takes tests well, consider having them take the College Board CLEP tests after some of their core credits are completed.  We gave our son high school credits for the courses he took at home, but gave him weighted GPA scores (changing a 4.0 course to a 5.0 course) if he then took and successfully completed these college-level examinations. Passing these tests means that you have mastered the course material at a college level. Because he later entered a college that allowed credits for the CLEPs, our son was able to complete his first year of college this way by the time he graduated high school. We know many others who have done the same.

 CLEP exam book

Use College Level Exams for dual credit, photo from CLEP website

Register your child as a dual-credit student with your local community college. This is particularly helpful in subjects you aren’t comfortable teaching. Your child receives college credit for these courses, and you give them high school credits as well. A three-hour single semester college course is equivalent to a one year high school course. Many home schoolers take dual credit courses in their junior and senior years of high school. I finished my last year of high school this way 45 years ago. It’s even easier today.

You Can Do It!

You can definitely home school through high school (and even into college) with confidence! By tailoring the course work to your child you can help them to gain invaluable experience in fields that truly interest them while still providing them a high quality core education. They’ll have the time and opportunity to work with adults in real life business settings learning invaluable lessons. They might be able to graduate from college early giving them a head start on their careers. Or they might start a successful business that supports them as an adult. Our grown son still runs his commercial iris business and now also runs a thriving music studio. Help your children to dream big! Give them the time and experiences to make those dreams come true.

Sheryl Campbell is an heirloom gardener, shepherd, and edible flower educator who owns Bouquet Banquet in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Read Sheryl’s previous blogging with Mother Earth Gardener and Grit and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Counting Blessings is Central to Home-Scale Resilience

Pebble Garden Pathway Through Forest

Once dense brush; this woodland garden is taking shape.
Photo by Jo deVries

Whether things are going OK or not often depends more on our perspective than the actual facts. Inner peace amidst a storm is evidence that the core of hope is, in fact, bigger than the storm that completely engulfs it — the size of the storm is no longer relevant. Due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, we have been forced to re-examine our priorities, analyze our surroundings through new eyes, and recognize the many non-essentials in our lives. There are always positive outcomes from a negative situation; after a storm, there is a rainbow.

Many of those living in the country feel blessed with stay-at-home orders, but the workload of living off the land has not lessened. Barns and fences still need to be built but the price of materials has skyrocketed, and common items are now harder to find. There’s a shortage of competent labourers, and people trained in the trades. In addition to the changes in our lives due to the pandemic, the usual challenges that come with gardening and farming continue.

Adapting to Water Stress

In my area of Ontario, Canada, we have now endured three years of drought. And although it hasn’t been to a devastating extent, everything needing water has been affected. The farmers and market gardeners without irrigation systems sleep less soundly; each day their work is tougher while the harvest and profits dwindle. It’s hard not to be discouraged.

We must keep in mind that there are many people in the world who deal with water shortages on a daily basis. Millions are facing serious water concerns in the near future as populations, pollution, and global temperatures increase. We are dependent on water. It would be prudent to spend our time and money on wells, water collection, irrigation, recycling and filtration systems.

I will soon be moving my pigs to a newly fenced area 100-feet farther away from the creek where I haul their water from — it’s already a 100-foot hike. This has given me incentive to look at other possibilities. I’ve decided to install a system to collect the water from the north side of the chicken coop roof, and pipe it the pigs through an 80-foot (recycled) hose, hidden in the evergreen trees. There is at least a 5-foot drop in elevation from the coop eave to the pig trough; perfect.

And if it doesn’t rain, I’ve still got the creek as a solid backup. I’m glad I stuck to my guns when searching for property. It had to have a water source that wouldn’t dry up. You might have to go farther out in the bush to afford it, but you’ll never regret having a spring, creek or dug well.

Mini Herb Garden In Forest

Herbs temporarily grow alongside a spent, pink lady-slipper.
Photo by Jo deVries

Adapting to Pest Invasions

This is also the third year of a huge caterpillar infestation. Everything that sits under a tree is covered in caterpillar poop. My van shows evidence that there are some incredibly large caterpillars out there.

Some trees were completely stripped of their leaves, making it look more like November. My young apple trees and weeping mulberry lost all their leaves in only a couple of days. I have a large oak tree that stands on top of my little mountain. Early this spring, I took a paint brush and covered a 6-inch strip around the trunk with vegetable oil. Perhaps another oil would be better — I need to do more research — but that oak is the only tree with leaves on it at the moment. I hope to treat the other oaks next spring; who knows how much more damage the trees can endure?

Using Time Wisely Means Vigilantly Watching for Lessons Learned

Round One of life is full of tests. Mother Nature continues to test our knowledge and resilience. Do we understand that Nature is as surprising, cruel, and destructive as she is beautiful, dependable, and life-giving? Are we doing our best to take care of her? Have we learned how to use natural antidotes, patience and understanding to resolve natural problems? We were warned by our predecessors of the hardships that may come our way. Have we listened, and prepared our homes and larders accordingly? Are we prepared for fire, flood and famine?

Although I will have owned my property for 25 years on July 31, I often hoped to have been much further along this road. Illness, writing a book, and well, life have distracted me from this project. When feeling overwhelmed, looking at old photographs help affirm just how far I’ve come. Before-and-after shots are always worth taking.

This year, I’m happy to say, things are progressing at a surprising pace, despite arthritis flare-ups, vertigo symptoms, and spraining my ankle, twice. I haven’t worked this hard in 10 years, and feel all the better for it!

Food Self-Sufficiency Does Not Need to Wait

The biggest thing my homestead has been lacking is a permanent vegetable garden. I’ve made a few attempts but couldn’t commit to the labour required to maintain them, and they were soon buried in weeds. My two pigs are presently clearing land for a new vegetable garden and orchard and cleaning up the overgrown elderberry grove. Half of the new steel fencing was put in place last month, and the other half is happening this month.

Waiting for gardening space has proven unbearable. I couldn’t help but pick up a few seed packs and starter plants when I cruised the nurseries for my weekly gardening fix. I was determined this year to put effort into food production as soon as possible, even if all the elements weren’t yet in place. I decided to temporarily home my veggies and herbs in my newly developed, woodland flower garden. Perennial green onions of various types, garlic, lemon-thyme, coriander, chocolate mint, tomatoes, squash, and a cultivated blueberry bush are growing amongst lady slippers, trilliums, lilies and iris. I’m already enjoying a harvest, tiny as it is, on almost a daily basis.

We will be blessed if we have taken responsibility for the things that are in our control.  I’ve witnessed many miracles along this road to a simpler life; the quick healing of my ankle was just two of them.

Having the opportunity to work towards living a sustainable life is something I’m incredibly grateful for. I hope my work would make my grandparents proud. They left The Netherlands on an incredible voyage, with many children in tow, and only faith that they were making the right decision. They worked hard until they couldn’t, and provided opportunities for their descendants as a result of their years of sweat and tears.

I’m thankful that the land they immigrated to is so rich in natural resources, wide open, and relatively undeveloped. I look forward each day to fulfilling the task we have all been assigned to: being stewards as heirs of this awesome planet and its inhabitants. Conditions are often far from ideal, but the trials make us a tougher lot. Let’s continue to share the challenges and the solutions. We’re all in this together.

Jo deVries (Jo of the Woods) designed and helped build her off-grid Ontario home, where she and her son have enjoyed a pioneer-type life-style without electricity. She is the author of Does Your House Know Where South Is? and generously shares what she has learned during her on-going journey of turning a piece of bush land in to a self-sufficient homestead. Connect with Jo of the Woods and read all of Jo’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our blogging guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Country Wisdom from Mom That Holds Up Today


A frequent sight looking out our window
Photo by Bruce McElmurray

The sayings that my mother used to use that I once thought were ridiculous and meaningless have, as I’ve gotten older, lingered in my brain. Now, I they seem to actually have some validity and merit. Some apply while others like the following do not: “I’ll wipe that smile off your face." “Come home when the street lights come on." “Close the door; were you raised in a barn?" “Because I said so."  “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about."

The ones that apply today that come back to sometimes haunt me over my current circumstances on our homestead contain wisdom like: “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today”. Back then, that usually applied to my chores or homework. Today, that applies to much more relevant things.

Fire Starter from a Downed Tree

We have a tree on the edge of our property that blew over and looks like it was hit by lightning at one time. It is a bonanza of excellent lighter for starting fires in our woodstove. A sliver of it will get a fire going fast.

These are overlooked by most people as all they see are tree roots sticking up out of the ground. Some of those roots are so rich in pitch that we use long fireplace matches to light them. I once found an old wood fence post that was the best lighter I have ever had the pleasure to use. Many times when a tree is struck by lightning, the sap/pitch flows down to the roots as the tree dies. When that tree falls over and the roots are exposed, they are full of pitch that has dried and is highly flammable. We discovered this particular source a few years ago, and it is now our secret stash that we use to start fires in our woodstove.

Today is the Time; Not Later

Today, between rain showers, I cut enough lighter material to last us through the next winter. We have had several days of rain and wet weather and I knew if “I put off until tomorrow what I could do today”, I would get involved in other projects and possibly would have to hike up the mountain on snowshoes in the winter. Going straight up the mountain in the winter is not an enjoyable task, especially with a bow saw to get frozen lighter.

The Time Has to Fit the Circumstances

Sometimes we can’t avoid putting off until tomorrow what can be done today. Last winter was rather brutal for us and getting anything done, like an appointment to get the oil in our vehicles changed, was next to impossible. We were still within the Covid-19 restrictions and hence, our mechanic with his small waiting room posed a problem as his waiting room was closed and we had to wait outside for service to be completed.

Waiting outside would not normally be a problem except when you make an appointment two weeks ahead and when the day finally comes, you find there is a blizzard or the temperatures are in the negative. We had to reschedule three times to finally get in and still it was cold outside and the wind was blowing. We changed mechanics to one that had a more sizable waiting room. Even that did not work well — when it was time to drive into town, our roads were drifted in. Sometimes we are forced to wait until tomorrow.

Preventing a Worse Scenario

Another of my Mom’s sayings was “A stitch in time saves nine”. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic and “shelter at home”, we had to put off some needed medical treatment. I had a strange growth on my skin that I was highly suspect of. At the beginning of the pandemic, it was small but by the time I was able to feel safe going to the medical facility it had gotten much bigger. I refused to go to the clinic because that is where those who had contracted Covid went.

Regardless of the precautions they claimed to take I simply did not view it safe, so I put off until tomorrow what should have been done today. As I lay there on the table and the surgeon was removing the growth, I remembered Mom’s saying that “A stitch in time saved nine”. What would have been three or four stitches ended up being 15 or16 stitches. You were right, Mom; “A stitch in time saves nine”.

Plan Carefully to Avoid Wasting Time

Mom had another saying and that was, “What your head doesn’t do your feet will have to”. That old saying applies to me nearly every day. When I go to cut down a tree for firewood and find that I did not bring the right items, like wedges or rope, that saying smacks me right between the eyes. Or when I change the oil in the tractor and have taken the wrong wrench. I do that myself although the sophistication of modern vehicles is a challenge for me. When I finally found the oil filter on the Jeep I couldn’t figure out how to get to it. I decided it was cheaper to have it done by those who had the right tools than to do that myself.

I don’t know if others on occasion remember these old “Mom sayings”, but I sure do as I have outlined above. Some I can now laugh at like, “I brought you into this world, I can sure take you out”. When I was in my mid teens and very fit, I recall standing there looking down at my mother who was 5 foot 1 inch tall and her reminding me she may be smaller than me but she could still put me over her knee and spank me. I believed her then and I believe her now even though she passed away over twenty five years ago.

Mom Was Much Wiser Than I Knew

Those old sayings of hers worked then and I find many of them work now. One that I remember well was - “You are known by the friends you keep”. That is especially true in the small community where we presently reside. Our nearest neighbor on our road is a mile away. We choose our friends carefully as we have found some who appear friendly are actually anything but friendly. I don’t want to be identified with them.

Bruce McElmurray homesteads at high elevation in the Southern Rockies with his wife, Carol. For more on their mountain lifestyle and their observances of animals coupled with their strange behavior, visit Bruce’s personal blog site at Bruce Carol Cabin. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

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