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


Training Border Collies: Getting Started

herding dogs progressive 

Previously, I wrote about spending time with your dog and learning how to work with her.  Time is a big factor in how well your dog behaves and works for you.  Actual training takes a lot of work on the owner’s part, if you are going to train the dog yourself.  A lot of things can go wrong but educating yourself on training border collies and going to working dog clinics are the best way to improve the outcome of how well  your dog turns out.

I recently sent one of my young dogs to a trainer and they informed me that she will not make a cow dog.  That may be, but that doesn’t mean she won’t make a sheepdog or a goat dog.  So it is up to me to either find a sheepdog trainer or get myself set up to train her myself.  After attending my first working dog clinic in November of 2018, I have a good idea how to start my pup but I need more information and that comes through more clinics and books.  I purchased a book entitled Herding dogs: Progressive Training  by Vergil S. Holland.  I am enjoying the read and highly recommend it as well as any other book on border collies as a way to get ideas and theories for your training your pup.  There are various ideologies to when to start your dog and what stock to start them on, so you need to read many books, go to clinics by different trainers and remember, you won’t train a world champion the first time around.  As long as you and your dog can work together, that is what really counts.  Unless you intend on trialing your dog, you don’t have to have a dog that is perfect.  My dogs work for me because we have learned to work together, which is where my current problems are starting to pop up.

My dogs work for me and as I transition myself into better trained dogs, I am beginning to find more faults with my dogs.  I have to either, retire the dogs, buy a trained dog, OR start retraining my older dogs.  The later is what I have chosen to do.  This will entail being more critical of my older dogs, stopping them more often and trying to relay to them what they need to do and correct.  Easier said than done, but it isn’t impossible, as before, it just takes time.  We may never get completely retrained but we will correct things that I have over looked and let by.

lessons from stock dog

To start my retraining of the older dogs, I need to get them more focused, which means investing in materials to set up a working pen that will allow us to contain the goats in smaller areas, rather than pastures, which is where all my dogs learned to work in an on-the-job situation.  We will take time from each day to work each dog separately and focus on basics. Border collies are smart enough to understand when they are learning new things and will work hard to please as they take on a new challenge.  Time will tell if my Jinx and Joy will turn around but I look forward to the challenge.

For more information on finding books about training working dogs, Amazon has a great list of books, starting with Lessons from a Stock Dog by Bruce Fogt  and Herding Dogs Progressive Training by Vergil S. Holland.

Mary Powell is a goat rental business owner and agricultural educator with more than 27 years’ experience working on ranches, farms and feedyards. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from Kansas State University with an emphasis in Livestock Production Management. Follow Mary and her many misadventures with the goats on Facebook at Barnyard Weed Warriors and Ash Grove Goat Ranch or on her BarnyardWeedWarriors.com website.  If you have questions for her about her goats or Border Collies, email Mary at barnyardweedwarriors@yahoo.com.


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Your Most Important Homestead Crop? Your Children

Homestead Family With Cattle 

Just about every two- or four-legged creature you can think of on a homestead at one point or another has found itself a resident of my kitchen. Rearing anything is hard, hard work and children are no exception.

One of the biggest draws to living a homestead lifestyle is what it offers, and doesn’t offer, to my children, who are fondly known to our friends and followers as the Bluebird (5 years old) and the Butterfly ( 3 years old).

I’ve got one shot to do this right. Here are some tips to raising your most important homestead crop: your children. 

Family Contributions through Unpaid Jobs

I recently read the book The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey . In her book, Lahey introduces strategies for raising children with resiliency. She brings up the topic of chores and promotes not paying for contributions your child makes to the family. Paying your children to do work around the homestead is, of course, a parent’s choice, but at our house, everyone is expected to make contributions.

As an adult, when was the last time someone paid you for washing your dishes or mopping the floor in the living room you live in? For that reason, I strongly share in Lahey’s recommendation that you establish the expectation that from an early age, completing household chores is part of the responsibility of being a member of the family.

Child Playing In a Creek

Importance of Swimming Skills on a Homestead

It is essential that all people living the outdoor lifestyle know how to swim. I’m not saying that you need to be the next Michael Phelps, but it is important to have basic swimming skills that could save your life.

On our property, we have two steams and a large farm pond. Although the ladies are never near the water unattended, being assured my girls know what to do if they end up “in the deep end,” is essential. Last year, Bluebird was digging for snails and slipped into the deep. I was pleased to stand shore side as she coached herself out loud to stay calm, kick, scoop her arms, and get back to where she could stand in a matter of seconds. I’ve been super impressed with the cost and instruction of the swim lessons provided by our local YMCA.

Creating Ownership Over Homestead Tasks

Growing up, each season we each chose one task that was “ours.” For me, it always was pumpkins (my sister loved to grow watermelon). At the end of each season, the pride in having been the sole proprietor of that pumpkin patch come Halloween was one of my greatest childhood joys.

Bluebird has taken to hogs and loves her Old World Spots. Each season she proudly raises one to keep and one to eat. At 5 years old, she finds incredible honor in being able to sit at the table and know that what our family eats, she created with her own hands. At 3 years old, the Butterfly has added goats to our homestead and I look forward to fresh cheese and soaps in the years to come that will contribute to her sense of pride.

As parents, we must always remember that the childhood years are fleeting. Our goal is to raise responsible, respectable, self-reliant adults. Now is the time to begin that journey and never underestimate the contributions that even your smallest homesteader can offer.

Little Blonde Girl With Goat

Amy Vaughan-Roland is a Maryland homesteader and educator who operates The Annetta G. Wright Learning Lab, a learning space for diverse learners promoting courses in the lost arts and hands-on learning. She is an avid canner, gardener, thrifting expert, and monarch butterfly enthusiast. Connect with Amy on The Annetta G. Wright Learning Lab on Facebook and on Instagram @agwlearninglab, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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We Made Some Mistakes Along the Way Series: Leaving the Nest, Part 1

 

This is the third installment of the We Some Mistakes Along the Way homesteading blog series. Find all installments here.

After moving around my whole adult life and spending a significant amount of time deployed in a tent with the Army, I decided it was time to buy a house and put down some roots. So, soon after returning from Iraq, my boyfriend and I bought our first house in the city/suburbs near Trenton, New Jersey.

Renovating Our First Home

Together we took someone else’s home and made it our own. We knocked down walls, renovated and added bathrooms, even blew out the roof line to expand the two upstairs bedrooms. We put in new floors, new windows, painted, gardened, and built our first chicken coop. Most things we did ourselves, some we hired out for, some we begged stole and borrowed time and talents from friends and family. I was surprised to find that for the first time in my life I wanted to stay home and work on projects instead of going out to party and have fun. This was my new fun. Friends and family commented on “how domestic I’d become.”  I never considered myself “domestic,” but I didn’t care what you called it. I was making my home and I loved it. Eventually Dave and I got married, and would go on to do many more projects together. I was unaware at the time that I was nesting, and I did this for years before having our first child.

What do you mean it’s too small?

All the while, unbeknownst to me (or maybe knownst and ignored) my husband was outgrowing our beautiful nest that we had worked so hard to create. So, while I was filling our home with love for our new child, Dave was planning a new homestead for our family. We finally discussed this in my third of fourth month of pregnancy. I could see his point – we both wanted our kids to live close to nature, be able to run freely (and safely) outside, and he had about 1,000 plans for things he wanted to build. I held out for several weeks, but had to admit our neighborhood was going downhill. I believe the last straw was when our shed was broken into, our bikes and multiple power tools were stolen. Up and down the street, people’s tires were getting punctured, and windows broken to steal change out of the ashtray. So, in about my fifth month of pregnancy I finally entertained my husband’s plea to look at this beautiful homestead in the country he had been eyeing for months.

Catch: it was a fixer upper. A big time, falling apart, full of mold, formerly used as a trash dump fixer upper that had sat on the market for about two years. “The value is in the land” the realtors say. Yeah. If you could get past all the trash and neglect. But there was no mistaking it, it really was beautiful. It sat on 11 acres that backed up to a brook and miles of preserved hiking trails and horse farms.

You want me to move into what?!

I have to admit, I fell in love with it, too. So, we made an offer. Then we had to get ready to sell my nest. Then, find ways to finance the property (do you get a renovation loan or a construction loan? A padded 30 year mortgage? Can the VA help?). Then there was the clean-up itself and renovations. By the time we got things somewhat squared away, I was nine months pregnant. I had been so excited to be pregnant – now I felt hamstrung by it. I couldn’t tear mold out and do renovations the way I could before I had a little human inside me. I felt frustrated and, honestly, resentful that I couldn’t just enjoy my new little life in peace. Then there were the thoughts (nightmares?) of placing my baby in a bassinet in the midst of sheetrock dust, mold spores and torn up floors in the beginnings of a renovation. I balked. I told Dave to forget it. We were staying put. Not long thereafter, I had Max. Pink and perfect, my beautiful little man. I brought him home to my nest, and I was happy.

For several months, at least. Until Dave noted that the homestead fixer upper was in fact, still on the market. *sigh* It was still a beautiful piece of land in a great little town. Perfect for raising kids. So, I said “okay,” and we got the process started again.

Well, as fate would have it – and we nudged closer to closing, a young couple showed up and made a cash offer on the place. Naturally, they got it. Goodbye dream. A part of me felt relieved, a part of me disappointed and feeling guilty. Guilty that my brooding had cost us this “little slice of heaven,” as our realtor called it. And now, this new feeling of anxiety about what was next, as my husband was practically popping out of our home.

Can’t we just stay here, then?

We started looking at other fixer uppers – the only thing we could afford in this part of New Jersey – between the taxes and real estate prices. Some were better than others, some were worse. The main selling point became “there is nothing you HAVE to do right away.” Y’now, like install a septic system, a kitchen, or fix plumbing so that we could have running water.

After months of searching, we finally found our current house. Originally built as a hunting cabin, I spotted it on one beautiful spring day when I was hyped up on too much caffeine. It was well off the road, and set high on a hill. It looked majestic and cozy at same time. I loved it immediately. Never mind that it didn’t have its own driveway, there were no neighbors close by (I loved close neighbors), it had a weird catwalk “deck,” and several other issues including a tension bar through the living room to hold the walls up. There was nothing we “had to fix right away.” We could just move right in. Easy peasey.

It wasn’t that easy. Our whole plan fell apart, actually…

Jennifer Dickinson is a nurse, gardener and chicken-keeping Mother of two who was inspired to try homesteading life in her late 20s after reading an issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. You can now find her catching crayfish and millipedes with the kids, weeding her gardens and tending her chickens on her homestead in the rolling hills of the Garden State. Connect with Jennifer on Instagram and Facebook, read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here, and camp with her on Hipcamp here. 


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Farm Life Inspiration: Learning to Surrender

Sleeping Goat Kid On Lap 

If the calendar is correct, it’s spring. But, morning chats in the Port Clyde General Store over hot coffee, grumblings of passersby with heads down in the wind, folks bundled up in sweaters and jackets at farmers markets tell us that it’s a cold one.

In my 10 years living on the coast of Maine, I don’t remember winter taking on such a long, cold hold. Before Halloween, we were blanketed in snow. Then the ice set in. Now, mornings are still hovering in the 30s with occasional frost covering the pasture. Memorial Day is next week.

Here on the coast, water temps are hanging in the 40s. Last week, lobstermen reported it dropping again. When you spend the day on the water and end with one crate of lobsters, it’s a costly day. Some are going farther south to look for slots on other boats till it warms up. Banks don’t care about the weather. Boat payments and mortgages still have to be paid.

In the barn, deep beds have been cleared and replaced with fresh shavings. The girls pick their own hay to nest in. I’ve been less diligent about weekly deep cleanings as those hay nests are still providing warmth under heavy pregnant Moms. By now, barn doors are usually flung open with gentle breezes passing through. This year, barn doors are shut to conserve warmth for newly born goat kids. Buckets are still steaming filling up with the morning milk. I’m still wearing red, flannel-lined jeans.

With the woodpile down to a few logs, the hay loft empty, and my Grandmother’s heavy winter blankets still on the bed, I take comfort in the warmth of a newborn babe on my lap. My alarm clock is two yellow, fuzzy ducklings in a box on the dining room floor, squeaking for their breakfast.

The gardens will get planted, eventually. The grass will get mowed, eventually. The farm stand will get stocked, eventually. Spring will come, eventually.

Wet Yellow Duckling After Bath

I’ve been using this extra time to focus on the My Maine Farm Girl site. Fiber is headed to the mill for spinning. I’ll post as soon as it’s ready. They’ll be lots of soft new colors. Milk is flowing, so I’m experimenting with new soaps. Orange Nougat is driving people crazy, because it really does look good enough to eat. Cheeses will be soon be available in the farm stand and at other locations TBA. And caramels, also available in the farm stand, soon on the website and possibly at a store near you.

People ask me all the time for advice about running a farm, particularly single-handedly. I don’t give advice, but I do remember a good friend telling me once, “you know when God laughs? When he hears your plans.”

That pretty much sums up a day on a farm — a day in a life — no matter what you’re doing. Be it weather or animals or growing things, we are not in charge. We can make a plan, as long as we know, plans change. My advice is: Surrender to that.

I’ve learned to focus more on what’s happening under my nose rather than across the days or weeks or months. Keep friends close, work hard, play harder. Spring will come, in spite of all our grousing. Warmth will come. Then we’ll be complaining it’s too hot! Aren’t we all just a bunch of funny ducks?

 Photos by Dyan Redick

Dyan Redick is an artisan cheesemaker, writer, and fiber artist is coastal Maine where she operates Bittersweet Heritage Farm, a certified Maine State Dairy offering cheeses made with milk from a registered Saanen goat herd, a seasonal farmstand full of wool from a Romney cross flock, goat’s milk soap, lavender, woolens, and whatever else strikes her fancy. Follow Dyan on My Maine Farm Girl and Instagram.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

We Made Some Mistakes Along the Way: A Beginning Homesteader’s Journey

Woman With Chickens In Yard

I found MOTHER EARTH NEWS for the first time in the checkout aisle of Whole Foods. It was one of the special edition magazines that had all these great stories from people who had started or built their own homestead. I had never read anything like it before. The scope of my magazine knowledge prior to this had been gossip and beauty magazines. I soaked it up, and started dreaming.

Quietly at first. Then, I started talking to my husband about it. It turns out that he had picked up my copy and liked it, too. We discovered that we would both like to “do more for ourselves” and try our hands at growing things. So, we started a garden. It was about 6 feet by 12 feet. Not bad for a little sub/urban property just outside of Trenton, New Jersey.

First Tomatoes

It thrived. I had the best year I have ever had for tomatoes. I had so many tomatoes I threw a tomato party. We had tomato-and-mozzarella appetizers, fried green and red tomatoes, homemade salsa and chips, pasta and homemade tomato sauce, and baked green tomato pie for dessert. It was marvelous.

Then, as years passed and my tomatoes never did as well, my husband confessed that he used Miracle Gro on our garden that summer. Yup, it was a blow to my ego. But I took it in stride (though I still argue that we had the best growing conditions that season). Now dedicated MOTHER readers, we dove deeper.

Then Chickens

In 2010, around Easter, my husband mentioned that maybe we should get some chickens. This seemed like a good idea but I’d never had chickens before, and it seemed like a big undertaking. As I mulled it over, he showed up with chickens. Twelve of them, three days old. Turns out, a farmer (two hours) down the road just happened to be selling some. Who knew?

“Honey, we don’t have a coop,” I said. “I’ll build one,” he said.

“I don’t know how to take care of chickens,” I said. “I had chickens when I was a kid. It’s easy,” he said.

And there it was. Just like anything else, I guess. One day life changes, and you learn and adapt. I loved our chickens. We named all of them. There was Meringue, Magoo, Chips, Scaredy Cat, Fat Bottom, “my buddy” — it was a hard lesson that as they got older, we would lose most of them. To predators, disease, a huge battle-scarred feral cat, our own dog.

We knew we had some training to do with our 6-year-old pit bull mix, Liddie, whose claim to fame was chasing down a porcupine and wearing quills like “Pinhead.” But we were not prepared that it would happen so fast. Once the coop and run were built, I thought we’d free-range them in the yard for a bit, and then bring Liddie out on a leash. Well, Liddie had other ideas and got out on her own with no leash. I didn’t catch her before she caught a chicken. It was awful.

Did I mention our chickens were contagious? Our neighbor thought it was such a cool idea she got a few of her own, sans coop. The very next day, I was cooking dinner when I got a frantic knock on my front door. There was my neighbor, waving her arms and screaming hysterically in Polish. I don’t speak a word of Polish. Finally, she calms down enough to say “Chicken! Chicken! Dog! Your dog!”

I run to the backyard. And there is Liddie, my beloved dog, killing her chicken. It was awful. What do you say? “Sorry.” About 1,000 times. And that it wouldn’t happen again. And, God bless that dog, it didn’t. She picked up on how upset we were, and responded so well to training that she actually became our flock’s protector. I know this, because early one morning, Liddie started barking like crazy to get out — thinking a leaf had just gone astray, I let her out and went about my business getting ready for work. Then I heard a crash, and a huge scuffle outside.

I went to look and all I could make out in the dark was this huge black lump that sounded like a freight train. I was calling Liddie, but she was acting funny, like she didn’t want to move past it. Finally, after what seemed like forever, she did and the thing jumped up with whatever strength it had left and disappeared over the fence. It turned out to be a cat, and he died shortly after. Liddie had some scratches, but she was fine.

I went over to the coop, and two of our chickens were dead. Turns out, that cat had been a menace in the neighborhood and animal control had been trying to catch him for months. He had even killed some of our neighbors’ cats. A part of me felt bad for the cat, but I felt more proud of Liddie for protecting her home and our girls.

Pitbull Farm Dog On Porch

A Homesteader’s Deepening Respect for Life

This was really my introduction to being fully aware of the Circle of Life, and the complexity of living within it. Living on a farm or homestead is being immersed in the cycles of life. At the time, I had been a vegetarian for 15 years and didn’t believe in killing animals, unless it was absolutely necessary for survival. Now I had a dog that killed, but that I absolutely still loved. I had animals that were killed but that I was tasked to protect.

I didn’t view wild animals passively anymore. If I saw a hawk, I thought “you better stay away from my chickens”. But, here’s the thing. I know that hawk is still beautiful. It’s not her fault she needs to eat. She didn’t design herself that way. It’s just the way it is, and none of us get to choose. And so, I really began to explore the complex nature of life, death and forgiveness.

Some of our chickens from that first flock survived many years. My husband even chased down a fox to pull Fat Bottom out of his mouth, unscathed. But we have also had coop massacres where a raccoon found its way in, and other macabre early morning surprises.

We still have Scaredy Cat, but just lost my favorite chicken, Meringue, to natural causes. She was my gardening buddy and intrepid adventurer. Always the first out the gate to free range, she would follow me around to snatch up any worm or grub she saw as I would dig. It was fun. I would dig, she would wait and peck. When I collected Japanese beetles off my fruit trees, she would be the first to come running to eat up all those beetles. And there is nothing more fun than seeing a chicken running at full steam. It was as gratifying as it was efficient. We haven’t had a Japanese beetle problem for the last two years, and I think Meringue was a big part of that. Thanks, girl.

Gray And Black Speckled Chicken

Camaraderie in Homestead Mishaps

So, I guess chickens turned out to be a good idea. They certainly have sparked many discussions and we have learned many life lessons from them. We have often looked at them as a “gateway” animal — opening the door to other fun animals like goats, llamas, ducks, miniature pigs. But so far, these discussions have not led to my husband showing up with new livestock. Yet. Hopefully he will not read this and take it as a challenge. No more animals, honey!

We still learn from and enjoy MOTHER EARTH NEWS – our “gateway” resource, leading us into this lifestyle of hands-on, self-reliant living with all of our foibles and mistakes along the way.

In the spirit of camaraderie and mutual support, I would like to let you know more about our mistakes. I always felt inspired by MOTHER’s articles, but at the same time, alone in my incompetence. And I figured, I can’t be the only one. I hope sharing our mishaps and mistakes just might make you feel better about your own. Because we all make them, and truthfully, we will all keep making them.

Jennifer Dickinson is a nurse, gardener and chicken-keeping Mom in New Jersey who discovered her affinity for self-sufficient living in her late 20s after reading an issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. You can now find her tending her fruit trees and gardens, digging for pillbugs and worms with the kids, and hatching spring chickens on her homestead in the rolling hills of the Garden State. Connect with Jennifer on Instagram and Facebook, camp with her here and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

HH_LEADERBOARD


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

5 Homestead Uses for the Coffee Can

coffee can with feed 

Using the can for feed storage.

Growing up, I remember scooping goat feed from the barrel with a tall plastic container, which once served to hold supplements for the horses. We would often wash out these durable containers, and give them use all over the farm. Fast forward to our own homestead today, and we are big time coffee drinkers. Some of you may know the feeling of taking your first sip of hot coffee in the morning, waking up with the sun and getting your chores started. Whether you've got the coffee pot plugged in, or the percolator bubbling on your wood stove, there's a few good uses for your leftover coffee can when it's emptied out.

Firstly, there are two types of cans I recommend saving- metal, and plastic. You'll want a durable container that can stand up to whatever project you'll assign it to. Depending on what you'll use it for, keep in mind that metal cans will eventually rust. Give the can a good washing after you've emptied it out, and make sure they're dry before using. I've included some personal use ideas from around our homestead, but with a bit of ingenuity there are so many great ways to re-purpose those cans.

Feed

Over time, we've reduced our flock numbers to only having a handful of chickens and ducks. Considering we don't go through as much feed, we use our cans to scoop feed and disperse it for our feathered friends. In the past, it was important to always save the lid when carrying grain to our goats, as putting the lid back on helped to make sure they wouldn't nudge the container and spill the pellet everywhere while going through the gate! For anyone who has experienced mice chewing through your feed bags, this is a good way to keep small portions safe from being nibbled on. It's also a great way to transport a pet kibble when traveling.

Water

water in can for plant

Watering our tomato plants.

This is an instance where I would not recommend using a metal coffee can, because water is quick to rust them. Whether you're carrying water to your plants on the porch, or refilling the chicken's waterer, these are handy containers for getting the job done. Again, the lid is valuable in preventing the water from splashing you if you have a bit of a walk while carrying the full can.

Craft Materials and Knick-Knacks

deer hooves and buckskin

Deer hooves and scrap buckskin saved for future projects.

We have a lot of scrap twine, buckskin, feathers, craft wire, and such that I use to make crafts with that help support the homestead. Often times, I cut a little too much twine or have a few deer hooves around, and I keep them in these containers to help organize them and keep them away from those mischievous mice. If you have random items laying around that you'd like to reorganize, here's a simple way to do it.

Nails, Screws, and Drill Bits

screws in plastic can

Keeping screws organized in this coffee can at the workshop.

Have you ever picked up a box of nails at the hardware store, only to later pick it up and have the entire bottom fall out? Are you having a hard time keeping up with your drill bits in the workshop? Here's a great solution, similar to how we mentioned organizing your random household items. I've started to move smaller tools and necessities in our outbuilding to coffee cans and label them accordingly.

Tanning Supplies

salt in can

Keeping salt for hide tanning in coffee cans.

This one is a bit more of a narrow category, but for anyone who may tan animal hides, I recommend saving plastic coffee cans. I have found that each can allows us to hold five pounds of salt for use in the tanning and preserving process- it makes for a great way to keep your salt portioned out and measured. If you buy your salt at the grocery store, a big issue with leaving your salt in individual containers is moisture. Too many times I've forgotten to put the salt into a container, and had the entire thing absorb moisture and harden into a block. The salt will rust out a metal can, so this is again why I recommend plastic.

While these may be just a few simple ideas to put those old coffee cans, there are many different ways to use them outside of just storage or feed and water. Folks who enjoy backyard birding can make a simple house for their feathered friends, or you can roll up your leather belts inside of them for easy storage. You can turn them into miniature planters, or let your children decorate them for a pencil holder. Are there any interesting storage or crafting projects you've made with your coffee cans? With a little homestead creativity, you're bound to find a use for them!

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. 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. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

What Does it Take to Live Off-Grid? Join Us to Find out!

Ron Melchiore's 3rd Homestead

If you are a homesteader or someone who is curious about self-sufficient living, you have probably wondered what it is like to live completely "off-grid."  Maybe you've wondered if there are small or big changes you could make to head toward that lifestyle, and maybe you're not sure how to get started.

Off Grid and Free: My Path to the Wilderness is Ron Melchiore's story of the ups, downs, adventures, challenges, and rewards of off-grid living.  This book is the selected read for the Summer 2019 Homesteaders' Book Club, a virtual book club for folks interested in self-sufficiency and the homesteading lifestyle.

Off Grid and Free

Why Read This Book?

Off Grid and Free offers a  combination of useful homestead and off-grid lessons, combined with humorous and honest storytelling.  Ron shares the adventures that led him to this lifestyle as well as what it was like to get started.  You'll relate to some parts, be amazed by others, but generally feel like you're getting to know Ron in the process. You’ll probably also start a list of questions and ideas to explore, which is why it’s a great book to read with others.

How to Join the Homesteaders’ Book Club

The Homesteaders’ Book Club is hosted through a Facebook Group that is open to anyone who is interested in self-sufficient living or homesteading – whether you are living that life already or just thinking about heading in that direction.  To join, you must have a Facebook account (though you can create one just for this purposes if you don’t use Facebook already) and click on the “join” link on the Homesteaders’ Book Group Page.

Then, click on the announcement for a link to the book and follow along as we add discussion posts, and information from the author!

Ron, and the book club host, Carrie Williams Howe, are both bloggers for Mother Earth News and are looking forward to a fun and interactive discussion this summer!  We'll post discussion questions, and Ron will try to answer any questions that readers have about his 39 years of homesteading and off-grid living.  The reading this summer will be very flexible.  While we’ll offer a guideline on which sections we’ll discuss, we will invite readers to join at their leisure and read at their own pace. 

Join us to explore what it would be like to not just visit the wilderness, but live in it.  We'd love to have you!

Carrie Williams Howe is a blogger at The Happy Hive HomesteadShe is the Executive Director of an educational nonprofit by day, and parent and aspiring homesteader by night and on weekends. She lives in Williston,Vermont, with her husband, two young children, and a rambunctious border collie. Carrie has a PhD in educational leadership and is passionate about learning collaboratively. Connect with Carrie on The Happy Hive Facebook page. Read all of Carrie’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. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.







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