Repairing, Cleaning and Product Durability on the Homestead

Reader Contribution by John D. Ivanko and Inn Serendipity
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A huge part of managing our sustainable, solar-powered homestead is keeping our expenses in check. As my wife Lisa Kivirist and I write about in ECOpreneuring, we can increase our cash flow by decreasing our trash flow. We’re always asking: Do we need this? No, on the microwave in the kitchen. No, on the all-terrain vehicle — we’re still fit enough to walk around our small farm. We can borrow or rent a pick-up truck when we actually need to use one to move wood or supplies, about once every three or four years, rather than own it. All this has made our farmstay bed and breakfast Inn Serendipity and homestead more profitable.

As a result of our positive cash flow, we’ve been able to focus less on income generation and more on repairing items, cleaning and maintaining what we own — which takes a lot of time as many homesteaders know — and repurposing items we already have on the farm. Scraps of metal remaining after siding projects for our barn and cabin became a new metal roof for an old chicken coop. Thanks to my son learning how to build sets for our local community-supported Monroe Theatre Guild, he used his new skillset to build a fun, outdoor farmstead cocktail bar for our various potlucks using old barn lumber. Creative frugality makes our rural dream a reality, providing the financial freedom that comes with cultivating a sense of living better on less.

We’ve always been big fans of the durable economy, selecting materials and items that will be around for years. When we do go shopping, we’re always looking for items to last, usually with limited lifetime warranties, and ideally made locally or in the USA, and when possible, designed with sustainable materials. We avoid the temptation to pay less for something because it’s “a deal.” Items made with quality materials and workmanship will last longer, and that’s a great thing for the environment and our pocketbook.

We try to be as wise as possible on what we purchase and always ask if we need it. Here are a few products we’ve found for repairing zippers, cleaning surfaces, or wearing (a well made wallet) in order to keep our credit cards and driver’s license safe from possible illegal radio frequency hacking.

Repairing a Zipper with the FixnZip

From a backpacks to luggage, sleeping bags to duffle bags, fleece jackets to jeans, zippers are ubiquitous. And sometimes they break or wear out. Instead of turning jeans into rags or pitching the suitcase in the dump bin, FixnZip, from CTF Enterprises, provides an easy and affordable do-it-yourself solution to extending the life of your zippered items. We used it on a backpack and fleece jacket.

The FixnZip simply slides over any broken tooth and coil, metal and plastic zipper and replaces it as a new zipper. No tools, needles or threads needed. And if the item you fixed completely wears out, you can remove the FixnZip and put it on another item. The slider parts are made of nickel-plated zinc die cast, with the spring and thumbscrew made of stainless steel, and come in three size designs for different needs.

Protecting your Private Information with a Durable Allett Wallet

Identity theft and security has become a concern of ours, especially when we get off the farm and around crowds. Allett men’s or women’s wallets and travel wallets are among the slimmest options on the market, made in the USA, and are radio-frequency identification (RFID) blocking, providing more peace of mind that our credit cards won’t be compromised due to the military-grade RFID-blocking material thwarting signals sent from illegal scanners. More state-issued driver’s licenses than ever before now have RFID chips that would transmit the contents of the front of the license. The US Passport already contains a RFID chip.

The Allett wallet is an immensely practical item that exemplifies durability as well, as it’s designed to last seven to ten years. Compared to my thick and fraying wallet given as a gift not long ago, the handcrafted Allett men’s wallet should last and is already much more comfortable to have in my back pocket. It’s so thin and light I could have even worn it in my front pocket without anyone noticing. Allett’s selection of items are available in both leather and nylon.

Cleaning a Home with CleanWell Botanical Disinfectants

“Cleaning products can release a plethora of chemicals into the air, including ones linked to asthma, developmental harm and cancer,” according to the Environmental Working Group. This growing body of research is nothing new to most homesteaders, many of whom have opted for homemade versions made from vinegar and baking soda. We have a homemade stash, too.

However, to sanitize our counters before preparing Inn Serendipity’s breakfasts or baking my wife’s Latvian Sourdough Bread for local orders, we’ve increasingly used CleanWell’s chemical-free, plant-based Botanical Disinfectant All-purpose Cleaner when we want to be sure we kill 99.9-percent of household germs. We let the surface air dry completely before rolling out the dough.

On several camping trips, we’ve also used CleanWell’s Botanical Disinfecting Wipes on cookware and cutting boards. And we’ve found CleanWell’s lightly-scented bathroom cleaner is quite effective for sanitizing toilets and sinks. All their products are made with the natural antiseptic, Thymol, a botanically derived ingredient obtained from thyme oil. If you happen to already use Seventh Generation Disinfecting Spray Cleaners and Wipes, these products use CleanWell Inside disinfecting technology.

John D. Ivanko, with his wife Lisa Kivirist, have co-authored Rural RenaissanceHomemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef cookbook along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by renewable energy. Both are speakers at the Mother Earth News Fairs. As a writer and photographer, Ivanko contributes to Mother Earth News, most recently, Living with Renewable Energy Systems: Wind and Solar and 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam, a 10.8-kW solar power station and millions of ladybugs. Read all of John’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


Blending inspiration with practical how-to’s, Rural Renaissance, a Mother Earth News Book for Wiser Living, captures the American dream of country living for contemporary times. Journey with the authors and experience their lessons, laughter and love for the land as they trade the urban concrete maze for a five-acre organic farm and bed and breakfast in southwestern Wisconsin. Rural living today is a lot more than farming. It’s about a creative, nature-based and more self-sufficient lifestyle that combines a love of squash, solar energy, skinny dipping and serendipity.

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