Since it’s summertime, I’m off! It’s a great part of being a teacher. I enjoy doing some morning chores around the homestead a few days a week.
I usually begin with filling a bucket from the rainbarrel, and using that water to water the plants around the yard. I will also take a bucket of water up to the deck and use it to water the plants there.
The bucket on the left is being filled for the washing machine, and the bucket on the right is for the garden.
If the washing machine is empty, then I fill 5 gallon buckets with water from the rain barrel, and pour them into the washing machine. I only fill the buckets with about 4-4.5 gallons of water so that the buckets don’t splash when I carry them inside. I usually make about 5 trips with the buckets. I’m saving water and working my muscles at the same time, so it’s a win-win.
I’ll weed around the yard, or plant if needed. Today the pole beans that I planted last week needed trellises. So I put the ones in pots by the deck supports so they could grow up those.
Pole beans next to a deck support
The others are planted by the fence, but they weren’t quite close enough to start growing up it yet. I had some spare wood from breaking down an old trellis, so I put some of those wood pieces next to the plants and leaned the wood against the fence, that way the plants will grow up onto the fence.
Today I also worked on our raised beds, which I wrote about here.
Spending the morning in the garden is such a luxury! I’m thankful we have a nice yard to be in, and that I’m physically capable of doing the work.
Here at Independence Homestead, a big part of being self-sufficient is being able to get through an emergency. In our area there was a huge storm on Friday night. While our homestead came through the storm just fine, over 200,000 people in our county were still without power 24 hours later. Plus several areas had water issues, where residents had to boil their water to make it drinkable. Luckily we didn’t have to boil our water, but the storm and its repercussions brought to mind how quickly even a developed area can be put in a hard place.
One task George and I already had on our to do list was to bleach and store more drinking water. Our process for doing this is very simple, and it’s FREE! As we empty plastic juice and soda containers, we clean them out and save them. Then we fill them with filtered water. Finally, we added bleach.
Adding bleach to water for storage.
Water from municipal supplies is already treated and chlorinated to a certain extent, but according to online sources it’s recommended to add a bit more bleach when storing water long-term. The sources we found recommended 16 drops, or about 1/8 of a teaspoon, per gallon. Most of our containers were about 1/2 gallon, so we put 8 drops in each. Then we wrote the date on the bottle. With the bleach, the water should stay good for several years.
So then we stored the jugs of water out of the way, and now we’re ready for a short-term interruption of our water supply. This increases our self-sufficiency in case of emergency.
Last December I decided that we should make paper. That was one of the decisions that got the ball rolling on this Independence Homestead adventure! I was enjoying my winter break, and I was reading online about different recycling strategies people had implemented. All of them centered around reusing something currently being wasted in the community.
Supplies We've Gathered For Paper Making
I thought about what was being wasted in my community, and how I could use that waste to create something useful. Since I teach at a school, I have access to a ton (probably quite literally) of wasted paper. Teachers accidentally copy something wrong, and they just recopy it correctly and toss the first copies. Or a teacher makes more copies than actually needed. Or students use paper, and then are done with it. While the school does have recycle bins, not all that paper makes it into those recycle bins. Also, it takes a lot of energy to recycle that paper on an industrial level. Plus there’s all the gas being used to transport it to the recycling facilities.
So I looked into what it would take to make paper using recycled paper. It turns out the process is quite simple. You need some containers, water, a blender, frames with screening, and of course paper. We already had access to all of this other than an old blender (didn’t want to use the same one we use for food). Within a few weeks we found a blender at a yard sale. To really make the paper in a manner that’s as environmentally friendly as possible, we decided to use water we collected in rain barrels. So even though this idea occurred in December, we haven’t made any paper yet since George installed our rain barrels just a couple weeks ago. I’ve been collecting paper at the school since January, so we have a large stockpile to use. It’s raining right now and our rain barrels are filling up, so I think papermaking is in our near future!
60 Gallon Rain Barrel
April showers have finally arrived and our rain barrels are already both at capacity. It has not even rained that much but between the two barrels they collect over half the rain that falls on our roof, and that adds up to enough collected water to fill up our two barrels. The last few rain showers we have had not been major, less than a couple inches total. Even so, I’ve noticed the water flowing out of the overflow valves on our barrels.
Seeing all this rain water leave our barrels made me realize that it was time we started utilizing this water more effectively. Originally we thought we’d just be using the collected rain to water our plants and garden. During the spring when it is raining a lot the barrels are filled up quickly and the garden does not need watering because the rain takes care of that for us. That just left a couple gallons a week used on our indoor plants, hardly making a dent in the 60 gallon rain barrel capacity. Continue reading
Washed Out Lawn Area
Martha did a fantastic job prepping our rain barrels. Now it is time for me to install them! We decided that our first two rain barrels would reside in our back yard as we had a bit of trouble with water flowing from the existing down spouts from the roof into our lawn and washing away grass in a large section.
Installation turned out to be very easy for me. The only tools I used were a hack saw, power drill, and flat head screw driver. The only other equipment needed was four cement blocks that we had purchased earlier at the hardware store to use as a base for the rain barrels and some extra flexible tubing to guide the water from the downspout into the top of the rain barrels. Luckily we already had such tubing laying around and just cut a couple short pieces off as needed.
Rain Barrel - Source: http://1.usa.gov/1Jh0ye
Early on we decided that rain barrels would be a great addition to our homestead. Our yard is on a slope, and when it rained the water flow over part of the yard would be too much. Grass wouldn’t grow well in that area, and the ground would get really muddy. Part of the water flow comes from the gutters, and we realized that getting a rain barrel or two would lessen the water flow. We realized other benefits to having rain barrels would be lower water bills since we would use if for the garden, living an more environmentally friendly lifestyle, and have a water supply in case of emergency.
Local government has a strong rain water collection initiative, which made it easy to get rain barrels. We found all this out through a simple internet search, and then we were off on our rain barrel adventure! Continue reading