Author Archives: melissa

Tiny Houses, Great Idea

The Elm model, like all Tumbleweed houses, can be pulled just like an RV trailer.

If you haven’t head of tiny houses, then you’re in for a treat. Tiny houses are cute little things with big implications. They allow homeowners to purchase or build a home — a sustainable home — without breaking their budgets or destroying the environment.

Many of them, like the Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, even come equipped with wheels, allowing you to place them anywhere, moving them at a whim.

We had a chance to talk with Debby Richman, the Chief Marketing Officer of Tumbleweed Tiny House, about Tiny Houses before her upcoming workshops (see the end of the article for more information).

What are tiny houses?

Tiny Houses are tiny houses on wheels or foundations which allow their occupants to live, sleep, cook, eat, use the facilities and even take a shower. While small houses have provided shelter for eons, the modern tiny house community has developed and grown since 1999. Since then, the idea of living intentionally – in a very nice, tiny home – has taken root and grown.

Tiny houses on wheels are smaller than 200 square feet and are built on travel trailers. Like RVs, they may be driven without special permits and parked like RVs. However they look nothing like typical trailers because they are build as homes with 50-year lifespans. Cottages on foundations range from 200 to even 800 square feet, and have more square dimensions. Foundation homes need to get approved by local municipalities, who may have zoning and building restrictions.

Tumbleweed Tiny House Company began with a single, archetypal home. Since the U.S. economic downturn, demand for living in tiny homes has picked up. Many people build their homes, even without prior building experience, and we believe there could be more than a thousand homes out there. Others want to buy their homes, and still live in a sustainable manner.

What are the benefits of tiny house living?

The main benefit from tiny house dwellers is the sense of freedom they gain. It comes from living in a home where everything has its place, knowing they are able to live on or off the grid, having the economic freedom to decide how to spend their time, and focusing on what matters to themselves and their families.

Most recently, we are seeing a huge age range interested in going tiny. These homes now accommodate options for sleeping downstairs and not just lofts, having private rooms in addition to open “great” rooms. They can accommodate two people and sleep up to four people comfortably. Yet their footprint is light, perhaps $30/month for all utilities when living in a four-season location.

Is living tiny doable and affordable?

Many people live full-time in their tiny homes, and others use them part-time for work, hobbies or vacation locations. Living tiny is doable and feels right because the homes are comfortable and build proportionally correct. There are many windows which creates a larger sense of space while inside. Scaling back belongings is important for living well in a tiny space.

From an affordability standpoint, anyone thinking of building should consider materials costs which may run to $25,000 depending on the house size. If building a home during a longer time horizon, then its possible to use salvage and build a bit less expensively. For a complete home with all systems ready-to-go, prices can go up to $66,000 for a 24-foot home. Tiny homes are designed well and materials and labor don’t come cheap since we (Tumbleweed) build our homes in the U.S.

Are tiny homes sustainable?

Definitely, tiny houses create both environmental and financial benefits. By moving into a tiny home, you may live within your means. On the grid costs are minimal and, after investing in alternative solar panels, off the grid costs are small too. What’s interesting is that you may still remain plugged into society with cell phones, TV, appliances and more. Tiny homes allow you to define what is self-sustainable.

They may be tiny, but Tumbleweed houses feature fully-functional kitchens, like this one shown in the Cypress model.

What is Tumbleweed?

The Tumbleweed Tiny House Company was founded to make it easy to live in and own a tiny house! This year alone, we scheduled workshops in 30 cities to enable people to learn what it takes to build a tiny home themselves, meet like-minded people, and turn dreams into realities. We also offer CDs which show a home construction, as well as 23 different complete house building plans based on four exteriors and floor plan options. Based on requests, we began offering specialized trailers to safely build a home, as well as Amish Barn Raisers for those who want to jump start builds from a fully-framed and sheathed house shell. Over the past two years, there’s been increased demand for ready-made homes and we build them in Colorado Springs, CO.

Eating the Weeds! 5 Steps to Enjoying Wild Edible Leaves, Roots and Flowers

Eating the Weeds

The organic produce aisle…of all places to have an epiphany. There I was, wrestling with the guilt of feeling bored with the canned veggies from my garden, when suddenly my eyes got stuck on the most peculiar looking foliage. I blinked a few times not quite believing what I was seeing – very luscious but expensive bundles of certified organic dandelion greens!

As an herbalist I was rather amused, thinking to myself about the pure abundance of dandelion greens growing in my front yard even in the dead of winter (albeit much smaller in stature than what I was seeing on the shelf in front of me). I had just collected some that morning to put into our salad for dinner.

I stood there slightly bewildered and thought, “Why would anyone actually buy dandelion greens, especially at this crazy price?” And then it dawned on me. Not everyone is as comfortable as I am walking out into my yard, a fallow pasture, or the forest to harvest and eat the plants that are growing there.

What is to me of second nature may be rather intimidating to others. Maybe the average person wandering through the grocery store is super interested in testing out the infamous dandelion greens of their granny’s dinner time stories, but they are a little freaked out by the idea of foraging them from wild spaces? Well, perhaps I can remedy that.

Acquiring knowledge about how to properly identify, harvest, and prepare edible weeds can be a lifelong journey and there is as much to learn as there is fun to be had. So on behalf of the wild weed kingdom, I would like to welcome you to an enlightening and satisfying way to build relationships with the natural world and truly connect with local wild foods you can rely upon for nourishment.

Why eat weeds?

Anyone reading a cooking blog these days can tell you that there is a growing interest and market for ‘wild foods’ such as mushrooms like chanterelles or morels and berries and fruits like elderberries, mulberries, or paw paw. These delicious and well-known miracles of nature can be both expensive and hard to find.

Fortunately, there are many less famous edible plants, or ‘weeds’, growing with wild abandon right outside our front doors whose tasty leaves, roots, and flowers contain tremendous nutritional value.

In fact, in the days before grocery stores, farmers markets, and year-round produce, these wild edible weeds served as primary sources of both food and medicine. Not only are these edible weeds nutritious, they are also free of charge, costing only the energy it takes to learn how to identify them and to get out into the great outdoors (with a bit of bending over). Research has shown that fresh air, natural light, and exercise all have the added health benefits of reducing the effects of stress on the mind and body (unlike a typical trip to the grocery store, in my experience).

Foraging for wild foods is a very rewarding and nourishing way to interact with nature. For many individuals and families, taking time to eat the weeds — even just those in your own front yard — can be an inspiring and memorable way to spend time with loved ones. It can also be a powerful teaching tool for parents wanting to instill in their children a sustainable food ethic and admiration and respect for nature’s bounty. In practicing the ethos of ‘eating local’, it is so important that we remind ourselves and our children where our food actually comes from. When learning to harvest and eat the weeds, we create mindfulness about respecting and honoring the life, the death, and the resources used to get that food to our dinner plates. In addition, preparing delicious food from the weeds you have harvested yourself can enliven the spirit behind your meal and the intention in your cooking.

5 Steps to Foraging and Eating Weeds

Step 1: Do your homework

When I find a new subject that I am uber excited about, I want to jump right in. However, in order to ‘eat the weeds’, we need to learn which plants are safe to consume as foods (i.e., not poisonous) and how to identify them accurately.

There are many poisonous look-a-likes out there, and although some of these plants are deadly, more often than not you and your guests could end up with a bad case of vomiting and diarrhea (it’s a terrible way to end a dinner party).

Needless to say, getting a handle on basic botanical identification is of utmost importance, so arm yourself with at least two plant identification field guides. The Herbarium and the blog of the Herbal Academy of New England are fantastic websites that house loads of great information about the properties of plants, but any good book on medicinal plants will cover edibility, what the plant is capable of inside the human body, and whether or not it may be ill-advised to consume it.

The caveat is this: always cross reference your field guides and herbal books in order to ensure you have positively identified a plant before harvesting it.

We also need to understand which plants are both edible and abundant. Many edible weeds also valued for their medicinal virtues are in danger of being over-harvested in the wild. Some edible weeds require very specific places to live which can also account for their rarity. Never collect rare or legally protected plants and never enter into fragile habitats where your presence can alter the sanctity or stability of the ecosystem. If you are not sure about these things, check out the United Plant Savers ‘At-Risk’ and ‘To-Watch’ lists and the USDA Plant Profile database which will provide information about the vulnerability status of the particular species you are interested in eating.

Step 2: Find a fresh location

Like vegetables grown in a farmer’s field, edible weeds absorb everything they are exposed to in the water, soil, and air. Therefore, it is important to consider the growing conditions. It’s generally good practice not to harvest edible weeds that are growing next to roadsides due to likelihood of residue from gasoline and diesel engines and the salt, fracking wastewater or coal cinders used for deicing.

These substances are full of toxic chemicals and heavy metals which accumulate in the soil. There is also a very high likelihood that roadsides have been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides to discourage plants from growing too close.

The use of pesticides and herbicides can also be an issue with public parks, as can excrement or urine from pets (or even people!). Be weary of immaculate or highly manicured lawns, parks and gardens, which are not likely to be pesticide-free. Know the history or maintenance regimen of the land you wish to forage from, even if it looks wild. Stretches of land with a dubious past may look benign but could have been an old landfill or industrial dumping ground. Your local county auditor’s office or public library should have historical plat maps that can tell you the history of that land.

It is also important that you seek permission from private landowners before foraging their property for edible weeds.

If you intend on foraging from state or federal lands be sure you know what you can legally harvest. For example, many state parks and nature preserves have a moratorium on harvesting anything from their properties, and federal lands like the national forests might require special permits or have specific rules about what you can and cannot take.

Step 3: Harvesting fresh plant material

Before harvesting fresh plant material, get in the right headspace and be prepared with the necessary equipment.

You’ll need a magnifying glass to assist in proper identification of flowering plants, clean and sterilized scissors or pruners, a trowel or hori-hori for digging roots, collection bags with labels, and a pair of gloves (for harvesting species with thorns and stings).

It is also a good idea to bring along a first aid kit. If going out alone, be smart and let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return — getting lost or injured in the deep woods when no one knows where you are can be a terrible and frightening experience. There are also some ethical issues to consider.

Bottom line: do no harm and leave no trace.

Be gracious and caring about your foraging practices, never harvesting more than 10% from the plant itself or from the plant grouping. If you are collecting roots, remember to be mindful of the damage you are causing to the surrounding area, including other plants and the soil.

If significant damage is likely, don’t harvest. Always remember that when you harvest the the plant can attempt to regrow (depending on the species, sometimes regrowth is possible, sometimes not). Use what you pick and don’t let wild foods go to waste.

There are real benefits for harvesting with the seasons. In the case of flowers this is pretty straightforward, but the nutritional (and medicinal) benefits as well as the palatability of weeds and their various parts will ebb and flow throughout the year.

Spring and summer are definitely good times to harvest leaves and aerial parts, where late summer through fall is believed to be the best time for digging roots. Some plants are only available in the spring or taste better when young, whilst others last all season long. Get to know the growing season to help you decide when, and where, to forage.

Avoid collecting material that is damaged, diseased, infested by bugs, or pooped on by critters.

I personally prefer to keep my weeds separated by species when I am harvesting (hence the multitude of bags and labels).

Keeping edible weeds separated will help with the final stages of preparation when you are removing non-edible material or undesirable tag-alongs.

Step 4: Preparing the weeds for consumption

Proper rinsing and cleaning of your weeds is straightforward.

Dispose of any damaged, buggy, or rotten material that you may have overlooked when harvesting and sort through your weeds carefully to make sure there is no foreign or unidentified plant material. Most edible weed parts like flowers and leaves are best consumed fresh, but for short term storage, make sure they are drained of excess moisture and then stored in bags in fridge.

Consume them within a few days so you do not lose them to rot. Flowers will wilt and go off sometimes within hours of being picked, so it is often best to eat them right away.

The roots of a plant should also be consumed fresh for highest nutritional benefit, but they can also be chopped and dried for longer-term storage. Learning how to dry edible weeds properly is both an art and a science and care must be taken in order to avoid spoilage. Some edible weeds, like dandelion leaves, nettle, chickweed, and red clover all make wonderful weedy vinegars that can be used in salad dressings and other recipes.

The vinegar not only preserves the plant material by extracting the nutritional and medicinal virtues of the plant, but also assists the body in assimilating them. For further lessons in drying and preserving edible and medicinal plants, check out the Herbal Academy of New England’s online Introductory or Intermediate Herbal Courses.

They are chock full of solid information, how-to’s, and delicious recipes!

Step 5: Cooking and eating the weeds!

Finally! The exciting moment of reaping the nutritional rewards of your harvest has arrived. When first starting out and especially when preparing weeds for others, a little will go a long way. A whole mouthful of dandelion greens may make a different impression upon a dubious first-time weed-eater than a few leaves chopped up and added to a salad. Start small and go slowly, giving time for palettes to adjust to the new tastes and textures.

Similar to legumes, there are some weeds that contain properties that can be harmful if not nullified by heat, and some of which may require substantial cooking. On the other hand, there are some wild weeds whose nutritional value and palatability can be completely annihilated through cooking. Make sure you know which herbs you need to cook and others that would be better off eaten fresh. Everything in between is left to you, the artist!

Last but not least, have fun! Be creative! Remember that sometimes it can take a while to incorporate new things into our lives and wild foods are no different.

Be patient with yourself, and with those whom you share food. It may take some convincing or stealth weed-eating tactics, but eventually everyone will likely come around and enjoy eating weeds with you.

Good luck and happy foraging!

This post was written by Erika G Galentin, MNIMH, Medical Herbalist and Assistant Director of Course Development, Herbal Academy of New England

6 Simple Ways to Save Money on your Grocery Bill

At the Lil’ Suburban Homestead we love growing our own food right in our backyard but with both of us working full time we still buy quite a few of our groceries at the grocery store down the street. We are able to supplement a substantial part of our diet with farm fresh produce right out back especially in the warmer months in Coastal North Carolina.

We also gave up couponing a couple of years ago when we realized the couponing was steering us to mostly processed foods and we knew that in order to have good health and to continue to improve on a healthy lifestyle getting away from chemical laden and processed foods was the direction we wanted to go in!

However we have learned a few tricks that help us save money on our groceries and let’s face it they aren’t getting any less expensive, if anything prices continue to climb.

No. 1 Cut your bacon in half

I’m not joking whether you buy turkey bacon, regular bacon we noticed that when we started cutting our groceries in half that no one noticed and your waistline may thank you as well. When we shop for bacon I freeze it because I don’t know when we are going to use it. Bacon cuts very nicely in half when frozen with kitchen scissors. All you notice is that you have short pieces of bacon. This works well with a family of 4 of course this may not work so good with a family of 8 but start cutting things in half and see what happens.

The cutting in half principle also works with fruit for lunches cut your apples and bananas in half again most people just want the taste of the fruit and won’t really notice that they had less apple or banana. Again this is for most people not for 6’4” athletes like my son

No. 2 – Start adding dried milk to your baking you can use it anytime a baked good recipe calls for milk.

I use it to make banana bread and corn bread and so much more! A lot of times I mix some up in a bottle in keep it in the fridge. No one will be the wiser…seriously.

No. 3 – Start adding Fish to your family’s diet

Going totally meatless is more of a struggle for me since I eat a gluten free diet but it can be done and if you can’t go all the way meatless then try to have an inexpensive cut of fish one night a week in many places cod, tilapia, or flounder are still relatively inexpensive and don’t forget the good ol’ standby of tuna! Also there are a lot of gluten free pastas at the grocery store nowadays they are not necessarily priced low so you may have to look for deals!

No. 4 – Make the veggie the star of your meal!

I have a favorite recipe on my blog at Lil’ Suburban Homestead called Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa so the grain and the peppers are the starts and there is a little hamburger or turkey burger in the sauce to make it a hearty meal and it’s a heart healthy meal if you use a reduced fat meat and omit the cheese!

Grains really can stretch your grocery budget and using them up as leftovers and lunches will stretch your money even further at the grocery store!

No. 5 – Beans really are “Big Value” for your buck!

They are a great source of complex carbs and they are not only a great addition to every meal they also can be the centerpiece of your Meatless Monday meal!

Meatless chili and if you are concerned about dropping the additional protein of meat you can also add “TVP” or Textured Vegetable Protein. I have slipped soy based TVP into many an unsuspecting meal of course I always mixed it in half and even I could not tell the difference!

I often will make chili in the slow cooker on Friday’s in the winter and I will eat chili for lunch the following week I just pre- measure it into 1 or 2 cup containers the next week depending on everyone’s appetite. Delicious lunches make the day go so much better in my opinion.

No. 6 – Cook a turkey or whole chicken at the beginning of every week!

If you have a large family you can take off the turkey what you need for a recipe for every night of the week and you can cook the bones up for good healthful homemade broth and then you will have soup every day for lunch or at least for a couple of days that week!

Finding small ways to save on your grocery bill, eating less processed foods, and putting some change back in your pocket at the end of the week is a good thing!

Read this list before buying a sewing machine

Whether you sew all of your own clothes, use it to make curtains, or just keep it on hand for mending, the sewing machine is one tool no homestead should be without. However, with the myriad of choices available today on the market ranging from antique to vintage; from used to brand new; how do you choose the best fit for your lifestyle all the while staying within the homestead mentality of “keeping it simple?” Once you have decided what to look for where to you find one at a reasonable price?

First there are two things you should consider:

1. What are you going to use it for?

Are you planning to sew a bridal gown? Do you need draperies for that west window in the bedroom? Do you just want to sew a patch on that pair of overalls with a hole at the knee? In most of these situations a very basic machine will suffice, one that will perform an excellent straight stitch, a nice zigzag, a decent buttonhole; and one that includes a zipper foot that can be easily installed. On the other hand, if you want to machine to quilt or appliqué you may need something that will provide you with additional features and functions. Think it through carefully. You may not need something with all the bells and whistles.

2. Do keep it simple.

The first sewing machine that was completely my own did nearly everything but make the bed. Apart from adjusting the thread tension at the touch of a button, it came complete with a vast library of embroidery stitches including the alphabet in three different fonts. However, after about fifteen years of repeated use it started to give out. When I took it to the repair shop, I was told that the computerized parts were obsolete. My expensive, amazing machine could not be repaired.

It has since been replaced with a 1960’s vintage Sears Kenmore. Embroidery stitches are not in her repertoire.  She only performs the basics, but she does them very well. She has run steady for the past 50 years and with a consistent maintenance schedule should continue to do so.

With that in mind then, it’s time to go shopping! There are a number of different resources for a sewing machine but these are those you would most likely find in your community:

A sewing machine store

Typically these specialty stores will offer several models of just one or two brands.  The advantages of shopping here are a knowledgeable staff that will readily be able to answer any questions you might have. Often times the store will offer classes on how to use your machine and be available later on down the line for repairs and service.

The disadvantage is cost. While most stores will offer used models, you will be paying more, and you may be paying for special features that, while they look fun in the store, will rarely be used at home. My vast library of embroidery stitches? It was hardly used. The latest model may not be the best purchase.

A sewing machine repair shop

Often times these little jewels will sell used machines in excellent condition or in some cases may be able to secure a new model. The advantage of a repair shop is a knowledgeable individual who knows machines and will be able to direct you to one with the features that best suit you. They usually offer a wide variety and aren’t typically limited to any one brand, therefore they can give you solid advice on a good purchase. Another advantage is cost. Usually you will pay less at a repair shop than you would at a sewing machine store. One disadvantage however, is that while the store will help guide you in your purchase and be available for maintenance and repairs, they won’t offer the back-up service by way of additional classes. You’ll need to have some knowledge of operating your machine on your own.


My  Sears Kenmore was purchased through a reputable used machine dealer on eBay. The advantage was a great machine at a good price delivered right to my front door. The disadvantage here, obviously is the risk. You are purchasing something you haven’t seen. Before you hit the purchase button, make sure you have contacted the seller with any questions you have, checked to see if there is a return policy, and checked the seller’s history.

Craigslist, estate sales, garage sales

The advantage of situations like these is going to be a machine at a very low cost.  The disadvantage obviously is that you may not always be in a situation where you can try out the machine before purchase and the machine may need to be repaired or serviced before it can be used. Unless it is a great bargain or your are experienced enough to know exactly what you are looking at this may or may not be a good choice.

Regardless of where or how you purchase your machine you will want to test the following:

  • The straight stitch, adjusting the length several times, and the zigzag stitch. Test them both for a good thread tension as well as the overall feel of the machine.
  • The buttonhole stitch.  The buttonhole stitch of some machines may be manual, or it may be as simple as pushing a button. Make sure that you are comfortable with how it operates. Make a few buttonholes on a scrap piece of fabric and slash them.  Are you happy with the end result? Does it look professional?
  • Any additional stitches or features the machine offers.

And finally:

Don’t underestimate the power of the old fashioned treadle machine

Although these machines typically only perform one function they perform it well.  The lack of buttonholes and other fancy stitches will force you to improve your hand sewing skills. What could be more enjoyable than an afternoon on the back porch swing sewing a hem or a series of buttonholes by hand? The rhythm of the pedal is a bit like learning how to ride a bike, but once mastered the experience is therapeutic,  not to mention the fact that you are free from the need of electricity making this a great option for one who is wanting to be completely self sufficient.

Read more: Discover the joys of spinning your own yarn

Warm chickens without burning your coop down


It’s cold weather time, and that means a lot of chicken keepers are worried about keeping their birds from freezing on their roosts.

During this time of year, there’s always a few fires in chicken coops where well-meaning owners put space heaters or heat lamps to keep their animals toasty.

But, it doesn’t take a fire marshall to explain the issues with putting heating elements in a small space made of dry wood, lined with straw and filled with flapping, unpredictable animals.

There’s not a lot of officials safety information regarding chicken coops, but these common sense tips, along with barn fire safety tips from the USDA will go along way toward keeping your lovelies safe this winter.

No smoking in or around the coop

Sure it’s a no brainer, but it still needs to be said. If you’re smoking around a coop, an errant spark or hot ash can send all that dried straw and feathers up in a flash. An ember can smolder for hours too, so even if you’re careful and check around the coop often, that ember may sit for hours unnoticed, only to flare up in the middle of the night.

Inspect your electrical systems often

Lights and extension cords in a coop can lead to frayed wires and electrical sparks inside a coop, especiallay considering all the rough edges. Sparks lead to fires. So make sure any electrical wiring or outlets in and around your coop are well insulated and secure. A quick visual inspection can save a lot of time and heartache down the road.

Secure your heat sources

If you just have to use a heater in your coop — we suggest you don’t, see alternative heating methods below — then make sure it’s secure. Bolt it in place and make sure your animals can’t get to it. It’s a good idea to have a designated area for any heat source fenced off to keep your birds from flinging straw or wood shavings on the heating elements.

Alternative methods for keeping your birds warm

Perhaps the easiest way to prevent fires is to avoid electricity all together. No electric heat, no electric lights means no source of electrical sparks. But you may be worried that your feather babies won’t be able to survive a cold winter’s night.

But, chances are, your chickens will do better in the cold that you think. Most breeds can survive temps down to 0 degrees Farenheit (-17C). But, there are some parts of the world that get even colder.

How do you minimize electric heat in those situations?


Insulating your chicken coop when you build it is a great idea. Even after it’s done, however, you can still use foam panels, reflective foil barriers and straw or wood shavings on the floor. This lets the heat the birds produce via body heat stay inside the coop. Just make sure you don’t give up ventilation for insulation. It may seem like sealing a coop up is a good idea, but even in the winter, your birds need fresh air more than ever.

Deep litter heating

You can also use the deep litter method for heating a coop. The idea is simple: Put straw or wood chips down as normal, but instead of cleaning it out when it gets soiled, add more clean straw or wood chips over the top. This material composts in the floor of the coop and the heat produced during the composting process helps keeps the birds warm. Fair warning: When the Spring comes, you’re going to have a bad time cleaning that mess out.

Compost heating

You can also use compost piles to heat chicken coops. This method is almost identical to using the deep litter method, but it involves using a mobile coop placed over a compost pile to produce heat. This method has something over the deep litter method, since there’s no cleaning at the end. But, if you don’t have a mobile coop then this one is going to be hard to pull off.

Build a solar collector

A solar collector can be built cheaply and easily. Essentially, it uses the sun to heat air in a glass encased chute that rises into the coop. Coupled with good insulation and maybe a thermal mass (see below) that warm air will be enough to keep your birds from turning into chickensicles. Check out this link to find out more about solar collectors and heaters.

Thermal mass

A thermal mass is a material used in construction to absorb heat during the day and radiate it at night. Usually made of brick, concrete or rock, these A thermal mass can be built into your chicken coop during construction, but if not, then there are other options. You can spray paint milk jugs black and fill them with water and put them in windows (or in front of your solar collector). At night they’ll radiate the stored heat into the coop, just like any thermal mass would. If your coop is small enough, this is an easy way to keep the temperature of your coop just high enough to prevent frostbite.

If you just take a little time, you’ll be able to baby your birds through the winter without incident. And there’s a bonus. Warm birds eat less. So if you do any one of these tricks, you’ll wind up with a cheaper feed bill at the end of the season.


Using compost to warm chickens

Barn safety tips from the Humane Society

What’s a thermal mass?

Ideal Indoor Grow Room Conditions: Grow Room Temperature and Humidity

Having a grow room is what every farmer should think of. It is one of the best things to have. A grow room comes with several advantages as compared to cultivating in an open field. You get to control pest infestation, odors, make use of a small space, and have total control over your crops. Since it is an enclosed area, you will need to manually control the climate inside the grow room. Unlike an open area where the environment controls how the plants grow, this entirely depends on you.

A grow room needs ideal indoor conditions for your crops to survive. Actually, it is not just a matter of surviving but getting the most yields out of them. There are two main weather conditions that are very paramount for crops growing inside a grow room or tent. Let’s find out what they are.


1. Grow room temperature

Temperature is very crucial for growth and development of plants. Each type of plant has its own favorable temperature at which it thrives best. However, photosynthesis takes place nicely at 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Any temperature higher than that can affect the process badly.

Else ways, some plants can withstand heat a little higher than the normal level. Summer comes with very high temperatures which may sometimes be difficult to control. Plants like cacti, Aloe Vera, succulents, Devil’s ivy, and Ponytail Palm can withstand a lot of heat. They have enough water to sustain them through drought. They also have mechanisms that prevent excessive transpiration. However, other plants need a controlled environment in order to blossom.

The temperature required depends on the stage at which the plant is. For example, in the vegetative stage, 70-78 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and around 10-15 cooler at night are standard for growth. The flowering stage requires a temperature of 68-75 degrees Fahrenheit during daytime and about 10-15 cooler at night.

For conditioning the air inside your grow room, we have the best ac for grow tent. It is not every conditioner you find on the market that can serve you to your satisfaction. Our company supplies high quality, durable, eco-friendly, and reliable air conditioners. This is what you need to control the temperature inside your grow room.

You can find a programmable ac which automatically switch depending on the environmental temperature. For instance, when the heat goes too low for plants’ survival, the heater turns on until the optimum temperature is attained. When the heat is too high, a cooler is turned on. A fan helps in circulating the conditioned air inside the grow room.

If you may need to move your conditioner to different places, consider buying a portable ac grow room. We have it in stock at a very affordable price. A portable air conditioner gives you an easy time in case you want to relocate your plants to a different grow room, or even use it for conditioning your house. It is easy to carry around and operate.

Depending on your budget, you can find an air conditioner of your preference. All sizes and designs are available. You do not want a big ac for just a small tent. This will be as good as wasting electricity. In addition, you can find one that uses gasoline or even solar. Think about what will serve you well and go for it.

2. Grow room humidity

Humidity can affect growth of indoor plants depending on its level. It is very crucial to keep it at the recommended level to ensure your plants bloom. Plants need different quantities of humidity depending on the growth stage. For example, seedlings need a strict range or humidity, unlike grown plants which can resist a wider range.

For plants in the vegetative stage, 45% to 55% of humidity is ideal for growth. In the flowering stage, plants need a range of 35% to 45%. You can even lower it to 30%. Plants can survive between 3-55% of humidity. However, the ideal range is between 40% and 45%.

To monitor the amount of humidity in your grow room, you need a hygrometer. In addition, a humidifier will help you regulate the level of moisture in the room. Too high levels of humidity may cause growth of molds, rotting of buds, and Powdery Mildew. On the other hand, too low humidity may affect the capability of transpiration. This causes stunted growth in plants as photosynthesis is highly affected.

We supply the best humidifier for grow room to help you regulate the amount of vapor in it. You can find any design and size from our store depending on your preference. The humidifier has sensors which detect the level of humidity in the atmosphere before automatically switching to the appropriate action. Good ventilation can also play a big role in controlling the humidity inside your grow room or grow tent.

Using a buyer’s guide, you can choose the best humidifier available in our store. You can choose one depending on the speed of humidification, temperature of the moisture, source of power, convenience, and portability. You can find any type of humidifier grow room at your own budget.

Apart from the two weather conditions, there are more requirements for crops in growing rooms to survive. For instance, oxygen, carbon IV oxide, light, water, soil type, mineral nutrients, and support are other necessities for growth. Good ventilation will ensure most of the requirements reach the plants. Nonetheless, there are a few plants that can grow very well without sunlight. They can survive on indirect light. Such plants include Dracaena, bromeliads, Maidenhair Fern, Parlor Palm, Umbrella papyrus, snake plant, and creeping fig among others. These are some of the plants you can grow indoors.

It is the joy of every cultivator to reap maximum yield. With no pests in the picture, it is very possible to harvest well as long as you keep the weather conditions in your grow room ideal. A grow room saves you the tussle of fighting pests, weeds, and worrying about bad weather. You can grow any type of plant during any season. You don’t have to think about the weather outside. Your cops will still thrive because all the power lies in your hands.

Top 6 Homesteading Resolutions

New Year’s Eve is here, which means it is time to make promises to ourselves and then, probably break them.

People all over the world will vow to quit smoking, lose weight, be healthier and more.

At From Scratch magazine, we consulted with our staff and put together a list of resolutions that are perfect for homesteaders, urban farmers and anyone who wants to live a little bit better.

Bonus: These resolutions will probably be easier and more fun to keep.

1- Get some chickens

If you do not already have chickens, get some. Just about everyone interested in homesteading or small scale agriculture can afford a couple or three chickens. Chickens are the gateway drug to farming. They require very little room, comparatively, do not cost much to feed and provide eggs! Just about everyone has enough space to keep two or three chickens (check your local zoning laws).

They are also very entertaining. As highly social creatures, they exhibit a lot of behaviors that are fun to watch and even participate in (try crowing, it will make you feel better, I promise). Just be careful: Chickens are so addictive, it is easy to become the crazy chicken keeper.

2-Buy more local food

Unless all of the food you eat is locally produced, you cannot buy too much. This year, promise yourself and your family you will eat more locally grown and produced food. You can visit your farmer’s market, join a CSA or even grow it yourself, if your budget does not allow buying more local food. Even if it is not certified organic, buying from local farmers and producers is just a good idea. It promotes a greater sense of community, will probably be healthier and helps encourage and support local growers, leading to an improved food supply for everyone. It is almost guaranteed to taste better, too.

3-Visit your extension office

Agricultural cooperative extension offices exist in every state in the United States. The Cooperative Extension System is an education program designed to help people improve their lives. As part of the USDA, the service is provided by individual states’ land-grant universities. The educational offerings are usually agricultural, food, home and family, environmental, community economic development, youth and 4H. Find your extension office here.

Chances are, no matter where you live, there is an extension office nearby that can offer information on a wide variety of subjects, including crops, pest control and more. They also offer classes, which leads to the next item…

4-Take a class

The extension offices always have a variety of classes for individuals to take, usually provided at low or no cost. The classes can be intensive as a Master Gardener program to as non-committal as a few hours. Which means anyone can go and learn something new about sustainable agriculture, raising flowers and vegetables and pest control.

If the extension office does not offer anything that catches your fancy, check out a nearby college or community college. Take a veterinarian tech class and learn more about those chickens you bought. Take a cooking class and learn how to prepare all that delicious, locally produced food you’re buying now.

No matter what, just take a little time and learn about the world around you. You’ll fell better about yourself for it.

5-Plant some herbs

Even if you only have a window sill of space available, it is still enough to grow some wonderful medicinal and culinary herbs on (many times they can be the same herbs). You will not believe the difference cooking and using fresh herbs can make in your life. Just knowing that with a little bit of sunshine, soil and water, you can harness the alchemy of nature to make your food taste better is a huge boost in confidence. Soon, you’ll be growing your own vegetables and looking for land out in the country (don’t say we didn’t warn you).

6-Plant a new vegetable

Again, even if you don’t have a lot of room available, it doesn’t mean you can’t experiment some. This year, instead of putting tomatoes out on the patio, why not try a new veggie to try out? We tried rutabagas this year, and while we’re still unsure of the success, we do know a lot more about the brightly-colored plant.

Check with the Extension Office when you visit and see if they have some suggestions. Don’t be afraid to be adventurous. The worst that could happen is you don’t like it. If you don’t, you learned something new and you have something to add to your compost bin. Which brings us to…

7-Start composting

Designate a space, either with a few pallets nailed together, or a commercially available rotating drum, and start composting. Not only does all that great compost make for wonderful fertilizer, it also helps cut down on the trash you might otherwise send off to a landfill.

Don’t just throw everything in your compost bin. Your local extension officer, and this website can give you some idea of what to do. 

No matter what your homesteading New Year’s Resolutions are, just remember to engage with your world and community and everything will work out fine. Happy New Year, from everyone here at From Scratch magazine.

How (not) to replace a pressure switch

As a brand new home owner, I’ve decided to share my expertise with others to help them learn about homeownership.

Recently, I found myself in a precarious situation when the pressure switch to my well pump decided to stop working. Since I did such a great job replacing it, I thought it’d be a great idea to tell others about the experience so they could learn from my cleverness.

(Note: Please don’t do any of these things. You might die, I almost did, I think…)

This is not my well pump. This is a stock image I got off the interwebs. But it’s a lot more attractive than my well pump, so we decided to go with this instead.

Step one: Diagnose the problem

If you’re the owner of a well, and you know nothing about well pumps, you’ll assume that a weird jetting sound coming from your well house is a perfectly normal thing, until you see water leaking out from the bottom of said well house. This is the sign that you have a problem. Upon closer inspection, you’ll notice a small jet of water shooting out from the top of the pump straight into the ground. At this point, you should poke around inside the well house until you find a pipe-looking thingy, about an ⅛ of an inch in diameter. See if this fits over your water jet. If it does, shrug your shoulders, make sure the water is still working in your house and go on about your life, confident that you’d solved whatever that was.

Step two: Diagnose the problem again

So, during the course of the day, you’ll hear the jetting sound from the pumphouse some more. At this point, you should ascertain that whatever problem you “fixed” previously, is indeed, unfixed. So, keep trying what you did before, but this time, worry about it all day. Finally, at the end of the day, go inside your new home and google this phrase: “Well pump tiny black pipe thingy water jet.”

Hey! Guess what?! Your well pump has a pressure switch. That answers a lot of unasked questions, doesn’t it? So, according to a bunch of different websites, the pressure switch works by shutting off power to your pump whenever the pressure gets to a certain point. That makes sense. Armed with this knowledge, you’re pretty sure you’re going to need a new pressure switch. Great. So, it looks like what’s happening to your well is the pressure gets too high and the little black pipey thingy gets pushed off. That’s handy as one site you didn’t look at suggested too much pressure could turn into some sort of explosive. Make sure you don’t read that site too closely, as it makes you nervous.

Also, be sure not to mention that to your wife at all, because it’ll definitely make her nervous. So, figuring you need to relieve the pressure so the black pipey thingy doesn’t pop off again, run a hose to an outside spigot. Turn the spigot on, and direct the hose away from the house, assuming that the runoff (it’s really not that much anyway) will divert to the aforementioned marsh behind your house. Marshes like water, right? Go and stare at the little black pipey thingy for a while to see if it pops off again. Hey! It didn’t. Resolve to go to the hardware store in the morning and buy a new pressure switch and install it. Sleep well secure in knowing you’re a responsible homeowner. Like an adult and everything.

Step three: Procrastinate

Wake up in the morning, get really busy doing something else and forget your well pump problem for a few hours. Suddenly remember, rush out to the well house and see if your black pipey thingy is still intact. It is! Great job!

You’re a heck of an adult! I bet your parents are so proud of you! Take this opportunity to brag to your wife and fish for compliments as you surely deserve them. Make sure you show off your newfound knowledge of pressure switches, that will really impress her! Maybe she’ll give you a cuddle or two for being so responsible. Decide to wait until tomorrow to go and get that pressure switch. Your solution to the problem is working so well (there’s only a small puddle in the yard) that surely it can wait one more day.

Step four: Have the water stop flowing in the middle of your shower

This one is tricky, as it has to be timed just right. You want to have everything lathered up, hair and beard covered in shampoo, just about to rinse when the water quits flowing. Swear. Get out of the shower and scrape suds off your body enough to get a pair of shorts on.

Go out to the well house as soap residue dries on your body and take a look at the well pump through one eye. Your other eye should be slammed shut as you have shampoo in it. Stare at the well pump and hope no one notices your lack of knowledge. Wiggle the cover to the pressure switch, hoping it does something. Have that cover come off in your hand exposing a mass of imposing wires and switches. Be afraid, but don’t show it, as your children are staring at you expectantly and you don’t want to be unmanned in front of them. Ask one of them to go get a wooden broomstick. Wait as they argue over which one it should be. Pick one at random for the job. Have that one shoot you a dirty look as he or she sulks away to get it.

Stare at the exposed switch and wonder if it’s smart to be messing around with electricity while you’re wet from a shower standing in mud barefooted as you wait.

Get the broomstick and bang the switch with it. Since it’s wood, you hope it’s non-conducting. Jump three feet into the air while cursing when the electricity going to the switch sparks. Explain to your laughing children you weren’t afraid, just alert.

Step five: Fun with electricity

Bang the switch with your broomstick a couple more times, observing as you do that the pump switches on and off every time the electricity arcs. Hmmmm… Have the other child fetch a screwdriver (allowing time for the sulk and stare). Poke the switch with a screwdriver, being careful not to touch the metal shaft of the screwdriver and notice the mechanical action of the switch. Determine the switch isn’t making contact to start the pump because the points of contact are out of alignment? Or something. Head back inside for a penny and a pencil. Come back out to the well house, and unplug the pump. Cram the penny in between the contact points of the switch and use the pencil to wedge the switch closed (it’s non-conducting, right?).

Plug the pump back up, and delight in the sound of it starting up. Rush back inside to finish your shower, awed by your genius. You could probably be an electrician, if you just applied yourself. Or some sort of engineer. Good job, smart guy! Finish rinsing off, only to have the shower quit just as you get the last bit of shampoo out of your beard. Dry off and go and look at your well pump again. Get freaked out at the smell of burning plastic, and unplug everything. Stare at your pump for about 15 minutes, wondering how long electrical fires smolder. Figuring the pump house is a good piece from the actual house, shrug your shoulders again and go inside. Explain to your wife that, according to your original plan — that you totally didn’t just make up — you’ll be without water for the next 8-12 hours. Ask her if she’d like to cuddle an almost-engineer. Get a confused look in response. Go to bed, and don’t think about electrical fires.

Step six: Go to the hardware store at least three times

First thing in the morning, get up and forget the water isn’t working. Spend 12 minutes trying to remember why. Oh, yeah, now you know. Decide, however, that you need to at least have one cup of coffee before heading to the hardware store. Use collected rainwater from a bucket left outside by accident to make coffee with. Be impressed with yourself. You’re like some sort of hybrid survivalist-engineer. Wonder what that kind of job might pay as you drink your coffee.

Remember Macgyver? He was a survivalist/engineer type. And he had a sweet mullet. You should grow a mullet. Finish your coffee. Head to the hardware store. Ask the guys in the red vests where the pressure switches are. Make sure you ask them while using all the technical jargon you got off google the previous days, so they know you’re so clever. No one wants to be the dumb guy at the hardware store. Go to the aisle specified by the store employees and stare at the 4-8 identical looking pressure switches. Stare hard, while trying to figure out the difference.

Finally, pick the cheapest one. Take it home. (Pro-tip: Take a photo of the wiring on your old switch so you can replicate it on your new switch. Immediately put the phone down so you can spend about an hour looking for it later.) Remove the defective switch from the well pump. Notice that the little black pipey thingy is attached via a nipple on the bottom of the switch. Notice that it has thread tape on it. Realize you don’t have thread tape. Head back to the hardware store. Come back home with thread tape, Unscrew the black pipey thingy, apply the thread tape and screw it back on.

Now, use a screwdriver to screw the wire leads to the switch. Realize you can’t remember where you left the screwdriver the night before. Hunt for it for 45 minutes. Finally give up, and head back to the hardware store to buy a new one. Come home and find your old screwdriver sitting on the ledge next to the well pump where you left it last night. Curse at it. Unscrew all the wiring connections, using your new screwdriver out of spite. Reconnect all the wires according to the fuzzy cell phone image you took of the previous wiring. Get confused and do it wrong. Undo what you did and do it again.

Finally, assume that it’s close enough and you’re tired of dealing with it and just plug it in. Nearly weep tears of joy when the pump starts working properly. Rush indoors and use the bathroom as you’ve been holding it most of the day since your toilet doesn’t work without water. Brag to your wife about being an engineer/survivalist (a survivalneer? An enginalist?) and ask her how she’d feel about cuddling a man with a sweet mullet. Get a little heartbroken when she says she’d love to, but then realize that she’s not talking about you. Decide in your head you don’t like Macgyver anyway.

That’s it! Easy peasy. Now you too can replace a pressure switch on a water pump  by following these 6 simple steps. (No, really, don’t. For reals. I did this, and most of it was really dumb. Try following these instructions instead, it’s a lot safer.)

How to Bathe a Guinea Pig (Steps by Steps)

You might be thinking about getting the best guinea pig shampoo out there, but this must be a safe guinea pig shampoo, of course. Well, a guinea pig will allow you to have a lot of fun because this animal is truly gorgeous.

You need to keep your guinea pig truly clean because this will allow you to have fun with it for a long time. But you need to read the right information about how to do this right away, and you should not spend an arm and a leg to keep your guinea pig looking good at all times.

We are going to let you know how to clean your guinea pig as soon as possible so you can truly get what you want. The tips we are going to give you are not hard to do, and you will manage to use them right off the bat. Therefore, we encourage you to continue reading so you can know more.

Wash It

You have to calm the guinea pig before bathing it. You need to understand that the animal might become afraid or anxious because it does not know what you are going to do. Use a damp cloth to wipe your guinea pig’s fur as soon as you can too.

Use a container and pour just two inches of water into it. Put just a small cloth on the bottom of your container so you can prevent your guinea pig from slipping down the road. Lowering your guinea pig right into the water is something that you have to do right away too.

Use warm water to rinse your guinea pig as soon as you can. Scoop warm water with your hands to achieve this goal. You have to make sure that the fur of the guinea pig is wet after pouring the water into it.

You have to use shampoo right away so you can rub it onto the fur of your guinea pig as soon as you can too. Warm water should be used right now to rinse the fur of your guinea pig, and that will be awesome for you down the road too. Make sure that you use enough warm water over the food of the guinea pig.

Drying It

Use a clean towel to dry your guinea pig right away too. You have to wrap the guinea pig up gently as soon as you can too. The towel will get rid of most of the moisture over time. You have to towel dry the fur of the guinea pig now.

You need to brush the fur of your guinea pig as soon as you can too. This is useful if you have to deal with a long-haired guinea pig down the road too. Using a hairdryer is also great, yet you have to use this machine with all the caution in the world too. This machine is useful if you are in a cold climate.

Keep It Clean

Keeping your guinea pig clean is not as hard as you might have thought these days. You just have to change the bedding of the animal once every day, and that is all. You need to both disinfect and clean the cage once every single week down the road too.

You need to spot clean as needed too. You have to take a look at the cage of your guinea pig once per day so you can keep it free from any dirt out there. Keep the animal’s play area or hutch free from dirt.

Keeping your guinea pig looking good is not as hard as you might have thought because you can do this quickly and easily at all times. Make sure that your guinea pig is not afraid of you before starting to clean it these days too.

Remember that you will need to use warm water and a towel to achieve your goal. And getting a high-quality shampoo will also help you a lot down the line too. Make sure that the towel will be clean so you can truly clean your guinea pig down the line too. Keeping your guinea pig looking terrific is not hard because we have told you what you have to do right away. Do this and have fun down the line too.

Quick, Easy, and Inexpensive Ways to Decorate the Home on Your Homestead

As homesteaders we garden, we care for our livestock, we bake from scratch, we sew, cook, and can leaving us very little, if any, time and resources to focus on the inside of our home. But the home interior should not be neglected. It provides us, and those with whom we share it a safe haven from the outside world. It should be a beautiful place: calm, peaceful, and reflective of whom we are. But beautiful does not need to be expensive, and time invested does not need to be exorbitant.

The following are some quick, easy, and inexpensive ideas to beautify your home. 

  • Bring the outdoors in

Whether it is a basket of produce from your garden, a bouquet of wildflowers, or even the pruned branches of a budding shrub, bring the outside elements of your homestead inside. A table centerpiece is the most obvious place for display, but what other areas in the home could use freshening up?  How about a bedroom nightstand, the kitchen windowsill, or the corner of a bookshelf? And don’t forget utilitarian areas like the laundry room.  They deserve a nice touch and will make your every day chores a pleasure.

  • Repurpose what you have

Before purchasing something new, is there any way to repurpose something you may already have? We recently moved into our home, and since we built as simply and inexpensively as we could, we did not have a kitchen pantry.  What we did have was an old antique bedroom dresser. It now stands in our back hall serving double duty holding canned goods as well as a charging station for cell phones.

The shabby chic look blends well with our country decor.  Other pieces that work well for storage are antique wardrobes, jelly cabinets, or wooden crates. Furniture is not the only item to be repurposed. Get out your vintage linens and put them to use. Consider using an apron for a small curtain or a tea towel for a table runner. Think outside the box and don’t be afraid to try something new.

  • Art need not be framed

Another way to repurpose items is to hang them on the walls: pretty plates, baskets, quilts, and antique farm tools will provide warmth and a rustic atmosphere.  If you do choose to use framed pieces but don’t want to go to great expense try framing postcards, vintage seed packets, or handwritten recipes. Hang a small variety of items together as a grouping. Before pounding holes in the wall however, play with your items on a flat surface such as the floor to get the arrangement you like.

  • Bring out your jars

Those of us who can have them in great numbers: mason jars in every shape and size available. Free up some of your storage space and bring out your jars. Use large ones to hold wooden clothes pins or antique buttons. Set out on a shelf or counter top, they serve their purpose while looking pretty. Fill  various sizes with flowers and/or candles and group together on a tray or in a window sill. Use them on your counter in lieu of canisters and fill with pasta, dried beans, and rice. For entertaining, add a touch of down home chic to your table. Use them as glassware or to hold the silverware at a buffet table.

  • Less is more. 

In choosing the decor of a room, keep in mind that clutter creates visual noise not to mention extra work when it comes time to dust. Consider keeping extra accessories to a minimal. Try to select items that serve a function apart from just looking pretty.  If you have the time and the storage space, rotate accessories on a seasonal basis.  Most of us value the homesteading lifestyle for its simplicity – allow this simplicity to carry over into your interior spaces as well.

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