Tuesday, September 30, 2014

4 Reasons Why Homesteading Is Better for the Environment

You’re probably well aware of the financial benefits of homesteading. You may also be familiar with the positive lifestyle benefits. However, there are also numerous environmental benefits. Simply by planting a garden and growing your own food, you’re helping conserve the environment.

1. Conserving water – It’s true that gardening requires water. Your fruits and vegetables actually need quite a bit of water to survive. However, most homesteaders quickly realize that irrigation systems work best.

For example, you can install rainwater collection barrels and create a drip irrigation system that comes directly from the rainwater. Other people create grey water systems and hydroponic systems which reuse the water to keep the plant’s roots moist. It uses far less water than industrial farming and you know you’re eating clean and healthy plants.

English: The carbon footprint.
The carbon footprint. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
2. Smaller carbon footprint – When you grow your own fruits and veggies, you don’t have to drive to the supermarket to buy food that was shipped from another country. All of those transportation costs add up to a weighty carbon footprint. Homesteading means your produce department is in your back yard.

3. Alternative and sustainable energy – Many homesteaders embrace sustainable energy practices. For example, they might install a wind turbine or solar panels to help reduce some of their energy costs. And living off the grid also conserves fossil fuels and reduces emissions.

4. Biodiversity – Industrial farms plant fields and fields of the same genetically modified crop. From New England to southern California you’ll find the same soybeans, corn, and wheat. When you plant your own garden you’re helping to sustain plant diversity. You’re also helping keep the bees and other pollinators alive and healthy. Their survival is critical to biodiversity.

Homesteading can save money and it is a powerful way to reduce your carbon footprint and help improve our environment. It’s also a fulfilling and rewarding lifestyle. You might also be interested to learn that you can make money as a homesteader. Next time we’ll take a look at three ways you can make money homesteading.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Review: ECOnscious Clothing: Dress Responsibly

Men's 100% Organic Cotton Pique Polo
Living sustainably doesn't only mean in terms of food and saving energy, but it also means trying to invest in earth-friendly and fair-trade products. There are more and more choices on the web and in shops to shop for eco-conscious clothes, which is a fantastic trend. One such company is ECOnscious. They not only sell organic and sustainably grown clothing, but they also advocate fair trade, which means fair wages to employees of their suppliers.

Their clothing range includes high-quality, well-made t-shirts - both long and short-sleeved, hooded sweatshirts, tank tops, hats, caps, and tote bags, made from organic cotton and recycled materials. Whether you are looking for a comfortable, organic cotton fleece to keep warm this winter, or a soft cotton tee for the man in your life - you'll find their products of superb quality and style.

In my opinion, ECOnscious is a company that is worth supporting. The more that we purchase items made from sustainable materials, by responsible companies, the more eco-friendly options will be available to everyone, and the better off we - and the planet - will be.

You can find ECOnscious clothing through Amazon.com and other online retailers.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Many Financial Benefits of Homesteading

Homesteading may initially seem like an expensive hobby. After all, if you decide you’re going to raise chickens and begin using solar energy to power your home, both may require a significant investment. However, homesteading actually offers many financial benefits, some of which you may be quite surprised to learn.

Homestead Tax Advantages

Most states have homesteading laws and tax credits or advantages. In many cases, it’s a great way to save money on your property taxes. The homestead tax exemption essentially makes part of the value of your home exempt from property taxes. For example, if a property is worth $180,000 and is eligible for a $25,000 homestead tax exemption, then the property will only be taxed at $155,000. The amount of your homestead tax exemption varies according to state tax laws and the value of your home.

Sustainability Tax Credits and Savings

Logo of Alliance to Save Energy
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Another way that homesteading can save you money is with sustainability and alternative energy savings. For example, in many states if you install solar energy panels, a geothermal system, or other energy-saving appliances, you may receive a tax credit. You also save money on your monthly energy bills and may even get a credit from the energy company if your solar cells produce more energy than you use. There are both federal and state alternative energy tax credits to review to see what you’re eligible for.

Saving On Groceries

Depending on the scale of your garden you can save anywhere from a few dollars a week to several hundred dollars a year on groceries. A simple herb garden can save money on buying dried or fresh herbs at the store. If you have land and can plant larger crops with an abundant yield, you can save hundreds each month. A package of carrot seeds costs less than five dollars and you can grow pounds and pounds of carrots with one bag of seed.  (See our Sustainable Gardening blog for more helpful gardening tips.)

Whether you want to save money or you’re simply looking for a way to live a more natural and rewarding lifestyle, homesteading offers a number of benefits. Next time we’ll take a look at why homesteading is good for the environment, so stay tuned!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The 3 Main Elements of Homesteading - Which Appeals Most to You?

While homesteading encompasses many skills and approaches, there are three common elements that most homesteaders practice. When beginning a homesteading lifestyle, it makes sense to choose one element and make it a priority.

Focus on improving your skills, systems, and practice. Integrate that element into your lifestyle and then expand on it by adding other lifestyle changes and homesteading skills. So what are these three main elements?

Ripe and unripe strawberries
Growing strawberries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
1. Gardening – The first and perhaps most readily adopted element of homesteading is gardening. Gardening is something that you can do on a small scale or you can convert your entire back yard into a garden. Small container gardens and raised garden beds are often a good way to go if you’re not sure you’ll have the time to tend to your garden.

You can always add more containers or raised beds as you become more comfortable. The most important thing to remember about homestead gardening is to grow what you eat. If you don’t like broccoli, don’t grow it. If you love strawberries, then that’s a perfect crop to start with. Utilize sustainable gardening practices to maximize your use of space and minimize your impact on the environment.

Preserved food in Mason jars
Preserved food in Mason jars (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
2. Food preservation and preparation - The next component of homesteading is a natural progression from gardening. It’s the fine art of food preservation. We’re talking about canning, pickling, and making preserves. For example, let’s say that you love strawberries and your first year of gardening you had good success with your strawberry garden.

Your crop yielded a nice collection of strawberries and you enjoyed a few tasty desserts. This year you might triple your strawberry plants and instead of eating them all right away, or giving them away, you make strawberry preserves. You’ll now be able to enjoy your strawberries all year long. Learning to cook what you grow from scratch is more of an art than a science. Enjoy the process!

English: Cabbage for lunch These healthy-looki...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
3. Animal husbandry – The third element of homesteading is animal husbandry, or raising animals. You might raise goats for goat milk and cheese. You could raise chickens for their eggs.

You can also venture into fish farms and aquaponics. This is a bigger step for some and you’ll have to check your local zoning ordinances to make sure it’s okay to raise livestock in your yard.

As you might suspect, when you begin homesteading there can be some significant financial benefits. In the next post next week, we’ll take a look at those benefits and provide some guidelines to help you save more money with homesteading.

self sufficient life

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sustainable Living - Homesteading 101: Getting Started On the Path to Self-Reliance

We're back!  Many apologies for the lack of posts last week - after moving into our new house, we discovered our new internet service did not work, so we've had a couple of frustrating weeks, but we're finally back in action!

A popular topic that some readers have asked about lately is sustainable living, and the idea of homesteading is very trendy lately. Over the next couple of weeks, we will address this topic, so for those of you who have been interested in exploring homesteading, now is your chance to learn more! Our own attempt at homesteading begins now, as my husband and I settle into our new home on 5 acres, and try to figure out what we want to do with it all! I will keep you posted on our progress here and on our main New Holistic Living blog, as we install a geothermal system, water collection system, orchard, garden, chicken coop, and more over our first few years here on our little homestead.  :-)

So let's get started....

Do you have what it takes to live a life that is sustainable? Are you interested in becoming self-sufficient and relying on your own two hands to grow food and essentially live off the land? If that sounds intriguing, you might be a future homesteader.

What Is Homesteading and Why Is It Growing In Popularity?

Home farming: Bill Stagg turning up his beans,...
Home farming: harvesting beans by hand.  Wikipedia)
Homesteading is the practice of growing your own food, raising animals for produce, and even providing your own energy. Some homesteaders also make their own clothing and strive to live completely dependent upon their own resources.

It’s a lifestyle choice. You don’t have to live in the country to be a homesteader. You also don’t need tons of land. You can grow some of your own food and provide your own energy even living in the city.  In fact, many urbanites raise chickens and grow food.

Why Do People Homestead?

Many people have made this lifestyle choice for a number of reasons. Raising your own food and practicing environmentally friendly farming is good for the planet. It’s sustainable. In fact, homesteaders often use rainwater and other water conservation practices to irrigate their crops.

Homesteading is also financially friendly. Imagine if you could get your eggs, dairy, and even some of your meat and produce from your own labors. You’d save money. You can also take advantage of renewable energy tax credits.

Finally, many people embrace homesteading because they find it to be a rewarding lifestyle. It’s true that food tastes better when you grow it yourself. And there’s tremendous pride in learning how to take care of yourself and live off the land.

Of course homesteading isn’t an all or nothing lifestyle. You can choose the pieces that appeal to you. You can start small or buy a farm and dive right in. Next time we’ll take a look at the three primary components of homesteading, so be sure to check back on Thursday.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Ten “Green” Cleaning Uses for Flat Beer

Ever wonder what to do with a half empty bottle of beer?  Drinking it isn’t an option; there’s not much worse than flat beer.  So what’s a person who doesn’t like to waste anything to do with a bunch of flat beer?  Here are ten “green” cleaning uses for flat beer - just in case you have some extra left over from the holiday weekend!

English: Jopen, a Haarlem brewery, produces th...
Beer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
#1.  Coffee and tea stain remover.  Though you don’t really want your clothes to smell like beer, it is actually a great stain remover.  Pour the beer on the stain and let it sit for a minute.  Blot the stain and examine.  If it’s still lingering, repeat as needed. Then launder as usual.

#2.  Polish your jewelry.  Pour that leftover beer into a small glass bowl and place your gem-free jewelry into the bowl.  Let sit for a couple of minutes, remove and dry thoroughly.

#3.  Furniture cleaner.  Use your flat beer to clean your wooden tables and other wooden furniture.  Place flat beer on a clean, soft cloth and apply.  Dry with another clean, soft cloth.

#4.  Clean your garden of slugs and snails.  It’s a long-standing gardening practice to use beer to attract snails and slugs to remove them from your garden.  Pour beer into a shallow dish and place in your garden overnight.  In the morning, you’ll find it full of slugs and snails that have imbibed and drowned.  Toss and repeat as needed to rid your garden of these destructive pests.

#5.  Remove stains from carpeting.  It’s always good to test this in a low-visibility area for colorfastness first.  Then, if you have a carpet stain, pour a little beer on the stain, wait a few minutes, blot and repeat until stain is gone.  This works better on fresh stains rather than stains that have become set in the carpet.

#6.  Cleaning doesn’t just mean cleaning your home.  Flat beer makes a great hair conditioner.  Wash your hair as normal and rinse, then pour that bottle of flat beer over your head, let set for a minute and rinse out.  (Don’t take glass into the shower, but rather pour into a plastic cup to avoid potential breakage and injury.)

This image shows a 0.1 x 0.03 inch (2.5 x 0.8 ...
Ick! Fruit flies. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
#7.  Trap fruit flies.  Flat beer is a good way to eliminate pesky fruit flies.  Pour the beer into a small plastic sandwich bag, filling it halfway.  Place the bag into a cup and snip the corner of the bag, not too big but large enough for fruit flies to be able to fly in.  They’ll be drawn to the beer and not be able to find their way out of the bag.

#8.  Bee bait.  Place a few dishes of flat beer on the perimeter of your home to attract them to those areas rather than where you and your family enjoy playing and hanging out. 

#9.  Copper cleaner.  Beer is great for polishing copper.  Try placing a little on a clean cloth and applying to the bottom of your copper pans to remove tarnish and add shine.

#10.  Plant food.  When watering your plants or garden, mix a few tablespoons of flat beer into the water and add to your plants. They will love the extra nutrients and vitamins. 

Flat beer may be unpleasant to drink but it has a number of valuable green cleaning uses.  In a time where we’re learning to make the most of our resources, there’s no reason to let a little flat beer go to waste. Try some of these tips whenever you have flat beer left over!