Category Archives for "Featured"

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.


Black Friday Book Giveaway!!

At From Scratch magazine, we get a lot of books to review. Sometimes, if we have the time, we review them. Other times, we get to busy and cannot.

At this point, I currently have 7 books on my desk for review, including: Happy Hens and Fresh Eggs, by Signe Langford; The Urban Homesteading Cookbook, by Michelle Catherine Nelson; Making Stuff & Doing Things, edited by Kyle Bravo; Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable Nesting Skills, by Raleigh Briggs; Home Sweet Homegrown: How to grow, make and store food, no matter where you live, by Robyn Jasko, illustrated by Jennifer Biggs; Amica’s World: How a giant bird came into our heart and home, by Washo and Meadow Shadowhawk; and Sprouts: Live well with living foods, by Ian Giesbrecht.

That’s a lot of books.

And, since our readers are interested in all of these books — probably, they are absolutely beautiful works and we tend to have smarter than average readers 😉 — I’ve decided that we have a new policy. Every time we review the book, we’ll give away our review copy.

Putting time and effort into writing a book is hard, and considering that most author’s only pull down about $10,000 a year from book sales and advances (many of them not even that), we want to celebrate these offers and make them as widely known as possible.

So, every time you share this post on Facebook, we’ll enter you into a contest to win one of these books.

To kick this new policy off, we’ll give away 8 books (we have two copies of Happy Hens and Fresh Eggs) to 8 readers on Black Friday (books make the best gifts!).

Every other day, until Black Friday, we’ll update this post with a review of a new book and you can check them all out, right here. As soon as we pick the winners and we get confirmation from them via Facebook, we’ll announce them on this blog and mail the copies out to the winners!

If you’re interested in purchasing any of these books, we’ll provide links for you to do so via Amazon.

How to win:

First, share this post on Facebook via the button on the page. Then, enter your email address in the Google Form at the bottom of the page. That’s it. If you have any questions, contact me at [email protected] (note: I cannot enter the contest for you). Good luck!

Note on reviews:

I don’t do negative reviews. Writing a book is hard and a little bit of a thankless task. Putting words on a page for hours and days and weeks and months is mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting. I’m not going to disparage anyone’s creative efforts. If I don’t like a book, I’ll simply not review it (which doesn’t mean, for any writers reading, that if you sent me a book I didn’t like it, my to-do list is about 3.76 miles long and sometimes I’m just not able to do things). If you, or someone you know has a book they’d like us to review and giveaway, contact me at [email protected]

The books:

(Editor’s notes: All the information below is taken from Amazon and or publisher’s sites. As we review the books, we’ll make note of that and change out the information with a paragraph or two about the book and a link to the full review).

Happy Hens and Fresh Eggs: Keeping Chickens in the Kitchen Garden, with 100 recipes; by Signe Langford

Today’s renaissance of the backyard flock is driven by a growing desire for healthy organic ingredients, food security and animal welfare—and while hunger might be “the best sauce,” a dash of self-sufficiency is remarkably satisfying too. As communities across the country amend urban bylaws to allow backyard flocks, more and more of us are enjoying the pleasures and rewards of keeping hens in the garden.

In addition to tending her family’s flock as a child, Signe Langford has kept chickens in her urban yard for almost a decade. Her book is stuffed full of practical advice on keeping the garden both gorgeous and productive and hens happy and healthy. In addition to answering questions about coop construction, year-round egg production and whether or not a rooster is really needed, she covers the best breeds for backyards. Langford includes dozens of simple and elegant recipes from her own kitchen, as well as contributions from celebrated chefs.

With beautiful photographs, illustrations and garden plans, this book is sure to become a favorite of avid and aspiring backyard farmers alike.

— From Amazon

Sprouts: Live Well With Living Foods, by Ian Giesbrecht

Want to enjoy delicious, homegrown food year-round? Sprouts offers an accessible, holistic, and unique guide to incorporating microgreens and sprouted foods into any lifestyle. In the modern age, many of us crave a healthier, simpler diet and a closer connection to our food sources, and sprouting can help us to bridge those divides.

Farmer and food activist Ian Giesbrecht’s straightforward and easy-to-understand theory of sprouting is accompanied by practical instructions, illustrations, charts, and recipes, covering many types of seeds and styles of sprouting. Suitable for anyone with an interest in living and raw food diets, indoor gardening, or simply the joy of growing something, this book contains enough information and inspiration to get you sprouting for a healthier, happier life.

— From Amazon

Amica’s World: How a giant bird came into our heart and home, by Washo and Meadow Shadowhawk

Amica is a rhea—a flightless bird in the ratite family, related to ostriches, emus, and kiwis. Amica was adopted as a young chick and in turn quickly adopted mother and son Meadow and Washo Shadowhawk as his flock and made himself at home in their living room.

Now an adult, Amica stands nearly six feet tall, and has a six-foot wingspan. By day he roams the backyard, exploring, running, and building nests, along with his friends the chickens and the dog. At night, he watches television and sleeps in the living room with his friend the cat.

What’s it like living with a rhea? As you’ll discover in the words and photos in this book, it is never boring, and requires massive sacrifices. Rheas, which are typically hunted or raised as livestock, are highly intelligent and expressive, with a humanlike range of emotions. Amica’s extraordinary story shows the powerful and surprising connections that can be forged between humans and animals.

— From Amazon

Home Sweet Homegrown: How to grow, make and store food, no matter where you live; by Robyn Jasko, illustrated by Jennifer Biggs

This succinct handbook is packed with practical information that will inspire and enable those who want to grow their own food and venture down the path of food independence. From choosing and starting seeds to preserving the harvest, cost effective and time-saving projects are set forth in detail.

Instructions for making DIY planters and irrigation systems, designs for upcycling old furniture into gardening stations, recipes for homemade organic plant sprays, charts listing dollars-and-cents breakdowns of homegrown versus store-bought produce, and growing guides for fruits or vegetables are just a few of the projects that will inspire neophyte and experienced gardeners to dig deep into sustainable living.

— From Amazon

Make your place: Affordable, sustainable nesting skills; by Raleigh Briggs

Raleigh Briggs teaches us how to craft a sustainable domestic life without relying on smelly, toxic, expensive consumer products. And it’s not as hard as we may think! This hand written and drawn book of charming tutorials is both fun and accessible.

It’s full of simple skills that anyone can and should learn. From creating tinctures and salves to concocting all-natural cleaners and body products to gardening basics, this book is great for anyone looking to live more simply, create a comfortable nest, and truly do it yourself.

— From Amazon

Making Stuff and Doing Things: DIY guides to just about everything; edited by Kyle Bravo

When you’re young, broke, and in search of a life of adventure, Making Stuff and Doing Things is the most useful book on the planet. It’s been called “more important than the Bible.” It’s an indispensable handbook full of basic life skills for the young punk or activist, or for anyone who’s trying to get by, get stuff done, and live life to the fullest without a lot of money.

The book started in the 90s as a series of zines, with dozens of contributors setting down the most important skills they knew in concise, often hand-written pages. If you want to do it yourself or do it together, this book has it all, from making your own tooth paste to making your own art and media, feeding, clothing, cleaning, and entertaining yourself, surviving on little, living on less, and staying healthy on all your life’s adventures. You’ll never be bored again.

— From Amazon

The Urban Homesteading Cookbook: Forage, Farm, Ferment and Feast for a Better World; by Michelle Catherine Nelson

With food culture in the midst of a do-it-yourself renaissance, urbanites everywhere are relishing craft beers, foraged ingredients, sustainable seafoods, ethically raised meats and homemade condiments and charcuterie. Inspired by the delicious creativity of local artisans, chefs, brewmasters and mixologists, Michelle Nelson began urban homesteading in her downtown apartment.

Armed with a passion for food and farming, and a PhD in conservation biology and sustainable agriculture, she shares her hard-won knowledge and recipes with readers interested in collecting, growing and preserving sustainable food—even when living in an apartment or condo.

In The Urban Homesteading Cookbook, Nelson explores the worlds of foraging wild urban edibles, eating invasive species, keeping micro-livestock, bees and crickets, growing perennial vegetables in pots, small-space aquaponics, preserving meats and produce, making cheese and slow-fermenting sourdough, beer, vinegar, kombucha, kefir and pickles. Nelson fervently believes that by taking more control of our own food we will become better empowered to understand our relationships with the environment, and embrace sustainable lifestyles and communities.

With 70 fabulous recipes, including sesame panko-crusted invasive bullfrog legs, seaweed kimchi, rabbit pate with wild chanterelles, roasted Japanese knotweed panna cotta and dark and stormy chocolate cupcakes with cricket flour— this exciting new book is sure to inspire readers to embark on their own urban homesteading adventures.

Generously illustrated with gorgeous colour photography and complete with useful how-to chapters, The Urban Homesteading Cookbook is an invaluable guide for all those seeking ethical and sustainable urban food sources and strategies.

— From Amazon

Read more: How to Raise Cattle on Small Acreage?

5 Easy Steps to Writing a Book About Homesteading

Homesteading From ScratchRecently, I was given the privilege of writing a book about homesteading and how to do it by Skyhorse Publishing.

Skyhorse contacted us about a year ago and broached the subject of publishing what came to titled Homesteading From Scratch: Building your self-sufficient homestead, start to finish.

And now that I’m a full-fledged, bona fide author (I may even wind up a hundredaire as a result of book sales) I figured I’d take my “expertise” and tell our readers, who might be interested in writing and publishing a book themselves how to do it.

So, here are my XX steps to writing a book. If you follow these steps, you’re sure to wind up in the same position that I’m in today.

Step 1: Get very, very lucky

I’ve been a professional writer since I was 19. I’ve worked at television stations, magazines, newspapers, etc. etc. I will literally write anything for a paycheck, or on occasion, a six-pack. Once upon a time, when I had a lot of time on my hands (up to 3 or 4 hours a week) I considered writing a book. So I did what the websites say to do: I sent out countless query letters, short stories, manuscripts, etc. etc.

Eventually, my spare time ran out and I just gave it up. I was already a writer. And it was exhausting trying to get a publisher for something as ambitious as a book. Fast forward about 15 years. Skyhorse contacts me and wants to discuss me writing a book. I said sure, because why not? I know why they contacted me about writing a book: It’s because the readers of From Scratch magazine are so passionate and dedicated. In fact, I’d argue that I’ve done nearly the impossible and actually become a worse writer as I’ve aged. And I’m fine with that. I love our readers and I love the fact that all the support of our readers and our advertisers have given us new and exciting opportunities to spread the gospel of sustainable living and homesteading.

So, the first step is: Get lucky. Get lucky enough to stumble into a culture of generous, open-hearted people who are devoted to intentionally living their lives with individuality, compassion, intelligence and uniqueness. Once that happens, you may get a chance to publish a book, or you may not, but something good will come of it regardless.

Step 2: Agonize over the contract like a crazy person

I once spent about 3 months annoying professional publishers and editors during an ill-fated college internship at a small publishing house. I learned a lot during that experience. Mainly that I’m afraid of contracts and I suck at interning. To this very day, I have no idea what a “good” contract looks like — and that includes cell phone plans, that thing I sign when I use my credit card (that’s a contract, right?) and that thing that happened with me and an unnamed cable provider (I think they have the rights to my organs).

So, when Skyhorse sent me a contract to peruse and whatnot, I spend about two weeks asking dumb, dumb questions. Here’s a few (note: Most of these questions are fictional. The answers are mostly fictional and the rest paraphrased and bear little to no resemblance of the actual conversations I had. These questions are merely to demonstrate how not bright I am):

Question: What if you don’t publish it?

Answer: Why would we not publish a book? We’re publishers. It’s our job.

Question: What happens if it becomes a best seller?

Answer: Then we’ll all be very happy.

(Editor’s Note: Odds are it won’t. There’s a bazillion books in the world published every year. Why’d you even ask that question?)

Question: Can I be on TV?

Answer: What?

Finally, the editor who contacted me, a wonderfully patient woman, just said to sign the thing, as she had stuff to do (Actually, she didn’t. She was incredibly patient and understanding and I’m going to dance a jig at her house someday to celebrate her and her contributions to American letters, but she should have). And I did. Whew. Step Two complete.

Step Three: Write the book

In my early college years, I spent much of it working in construction. One day, we had to haul countless wheelbarrow loads of wet concrete down a muddy, rutted hillside to a series of load bearing cinder block walls. Once we got there, we had to scoop concrete into five gallon buckets and lift it 8 feet into the air so we could hand it to another set of workers who poured the buckets of concrete into the walls. After we’d scooped all our concrete out of the wheelbarrow, we’d have to go back to the concrete truck and start over. And we had to go as fast as possible: The concrete truck was on the edge of the company’s range and as such, there was a concern the concrete would set inside the truck.

So, we hauled concrete as fast as we could go until it was done. And it was really, really hard. Physically, it may have been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Until I wrote a book.

Sitting in a chair, clenching every muscle in my body (I don’t even know why) and typing for hours, days and weeks on end, hurt.

Toward the deadline, I was surviving on just a few hours of sleep a night. It was emotionally draining. I literally ached in my joints.

I became a monster to my family (“Daddy, what do you want to eat tonight?! LEAVE ME ALONE *sob*).

But, hey, really, anyone can do it. Just decide that you hate yourself a good bit and spend a few weeks flogging your body and mind in a self-deprecating haze. It’s like slapping yourself when you’re sleepy. People do that, right?

Step Four: Edits!

There comes a point, after you’ve written your first draft, when your editor will contact you. They’ll ask, reasonably and gently, for information, clarifications, maybe even a handful of re-writes. And, if you’re like me, you’ll assume that this means obviously you’re a terrible writer and everyone hates you.

It will take weeks. Just weeks and weeks of self-loathing! Oh, it’s such a decadent thing. Just wallowing in self-pity. Begging friends and family members for validation. Reaching out to people you haven’t spoken to in years to ask: “I’m a good person? Right?”

Again, this is a really easy step. Anyone can do it. All you need is an unhealthy sense of self-worth.

Step Five: ???

This is the final step. And I’m not sure how it goes. The book comes out and then… Who knows? I know you have to tell everyone, I mean everyone, about your book as soon as it comes out and even before.

Click here for presale information 😉

And that’s a strange thing, so far. Part of me feels a little weird. It feels slightly like bragging about this thing that hasn’t happened yet. I’m not good at bragging about myself. But how else are people going to learn about it. Hopefully, as nightmarish an experience as it is bringing a book to life is, I’ll get to do it again. And maybe even better next time.

So, I guess, sell your book? Tell everyone. As weird as it feels, writing a book is something to be proud of. Especially, if, like me, you have an incredible group of homesteaders, readers, friends, family and supporters who helped inspire the entire project as well as make it possible.

So, ultimately, I guess, Step Five is Gratitude. Thank you to everyone who made this project possible: Editors, readers, homesteaders, farmers, teachers, extension agents, Facebook followers, family members, my wife (Melissa Jones), my delightfully willful, ultimately helpful children and anyone and everyone.

Other Books: