I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately asking for advice for preppers wanting to get into growing their own vegetables, on route to becoming self sufficient, healthy and prepared. It’s not easy but if I can do it then surely you can too. Here are some of my favorite tips to get you started. Feel free to add your own in the comments box below:
* I think the first rule for anyone starting out with a homesteading garden is to focus on growing only what you intend to eat. There is little point growing tomatoes if your entire family does not like them!
* Know what will grow in your location – starting a homesteading garden in say the South West you can probably get away with a lot broader varieties of fruits and vegetables than you can say starting your gardening in South Dakota – where of course you will need to focus on my robust vegetables and legumes (beans)
* Having a successful homesteading garden takes effort at first and accept that there will be a learn curve. The first year my family started pretty much everything but our tomato crops failed. learn from your mistakes and accept that it will take time to get good at this
* It is wise to start with a limited run of vegetables and scale up over time. A small well cared garden when you are starting out will yield better results than a large one given less focus and attention
* Once you narrow down what plats you want to start with its best to invest in non hybrid seeds. Non Hybrid seed (often called Heirloom seed as well) is seed that has been naturally pollinated – this difference between this and hybrid seeds is hybrid seeds lack nutrition in the final fruit or vegetables and you cannot save the seeds from these plats to be used again in next seasons garden
* If you have a limited amount of space for your garden look into “container gardening” You can plant your veggies on your balcony, deck or patio using this method. Containers also make it easier for you to control the soil, light, water and fertilizer.
* Again if you are limited in the amount of space you have for your garden you way want to investigate vertical gardening – using trellis’s to grow crops up not sideways The best plants for vertical gardening are Peas, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Asparagus pumpkins and sweet potatoes. You can even buy prepackaged “grow walls” at many home and garden centers now!
* For those who still live a city you can get your start right on your own balcony start with herbs, the best ones to start with oregano, parsley, thyme, basil, rosemary, dill and some smaller vergetables like cherry tomatoes and peppers.If you choose to plant cucumbers they will each need their own pot so that they are not overcrowded.
* Consider putting wire over your veggies to stop your pets digging in your vegetable gardens, my dogs love to dig in the toiled soil,especially when its hot.
* Look into “companion planting – Its about how certain plants can protect each other from pests and diseases, if done right you can get away with using no pesticides on your plants. There is a book i cannot recommend enough called “”Carrots love Tomatoes”
* If you cannot get companion planting to work for you please look into organic alternatives to pesticides to keep bugs and other predators off your plants – its just not wise to dowse the vegetables you plan to eat with such toxic chemicals!
* Once you get into your second year of homestead gardening make sure you rotate your crops, so that you do not deplete the nutritional value of your soil (which happens when you plant the same crops in the same soil year after year) So don’t plant the same plants in the same spot year in year out.
* Consider canning. Its a great way to make your vegetables last the winter months and its easy to do. Easy but not the cheapest, however you cannot put a price on knowing exactly what is in your jars! There is something deeply fulfilling about preserving fresh food for later.
Once you spend some time on your garden and start to see results you will never go back to store bought veggies again!
Many homesteading prepper families make the decisions to invest in a dairy cow for their property. This will provide plenty of milk for your family – and possibly extra for your pigs, if you’re raising those.
You can drink the milk, or create yogurt, ice cream and other items from her milk. Each type of cow and size will produce a variable amount of milk, so you may want to find a smaller option (like a goat) if your family doesn’t use much milk.
Or, if you live in a prepper community, you could share the milk with another family – along with the responsibilities of raising it. You need to milk it at the same time each and every day, so scheduling is important.
Some people wonder about the safety of drinking raw milk, but you can also buy a pasteurizer for your family to use. They’re not expensive and it will provide you with the same safety that you get off the grocery shelves.
It can get expensive to raise a dairy cow if you’re having to buy all of your hay, but many prepper families grow their own, so that cuts down on the cost of raising your dairy cow enormously.
You can sometimes go to a dairy farm and ask if they have any lower production cows they want to get rid of. If the volume isn’t enough for a dairy farm, they’ll often sell off the cows to a family that requires a much lower volume of milk.
Most families recommend that you get a Jersey dairy cow, but there are many options. You want one that’s gentle and won’t be hostile to you or your little ones in a farming situation.
You have to make sure that your property has room for her to graze and roam around. If you get a Brown Swiss or Dexter cow, then you can allow for more grass grazing than hay feed, which saves you money in the long run.
Your dairy cow will provide milk twice a day for almost a year. After about 10 months, give her a break for a few months and then let her produce another calf to begin milk production again.
Keep in mind that your water supply has to be significant to provide for a dairy cow’s needs. They can drink anywhere from 25-40 gallons of water each day. Make sure you have enough water for her and your own family’s needs.
Your dairy cow might produce anywhere from 2-8 gallons of milk per day, so make sure you don’t over-invest in something that’s going to make all of the milk production go to waste.
Most of us already agree that a permanent bug out location is better than Bugging out when the SHTF – the trouble is many of us need to be close to the city or towns for our jobs. You know that thing we do all week long to make money to pay for our homes, kids, food, and other essentials. By moving far way from the cities we would have no way to support our loved ones OR we would be faced with 3 hr commutes each way to work which is just not realistic.
So the key is to have your homestead or BOL and have some sort of home business to bring in money to pay for everything. I have come up with a list of 20 ideas of ways in which you can be removed from society and still be earning money. Please feel free to add your own ideas in the comments section. Many thanks for reading.
1. A butcher shop. These days the average person buys their meat in shrink wrap from the supermarket. In the old days most families knew how to humanely butcher and animal and use its body parts for food. A person who raises their won animals and knows how to correctly butcher them will do well at farmers markets and even better after a societal collapse.
2. A cheese-maker . Another skill that has been lost since the early 1900s – in ye olden times most villages had someone who was well versed in cheese making, whether cow cheese or goats cheese this is another job with a little bit of training you could make a good living and still live on your homestead.
3. Woodworking shop. Most manufacturing these days seems to have gone to china and the average persons idea of building a bookcase is assembling a kit from Ikea. In our grandparents time they would save up to by a book case of a chest of drawers and it would last a life time. Anyone who is handy with carpentry will do well pre and post collapse of society.
4. A yogurt shop or a milk shop. Much like being a cheese maker above, healthy cow’s milk or goats milk could be a trade to support the family. There is a great demand these days for natural milks not pumped full of harmful hormones and additives and someone who takes the time to learn the skills to make great tasting natural milk or yogurt would soon get lots of repeat business.
5. A Barber shop. Anyone who can give good haircuts, is handy with a pair of hair clippers or can do a mean straight razor shave will do well in this times or in the Post Apocalyptic world.
6. A Tailor’s. Much like cheap modern day furniture that people dispose of when they move house, many people today choose cheap clothes that they will through out after wearing a couple of times. When I grew up my mother would darn the holes in our socks and sew patches on the knees of our jeans when we got holes in them. A person handy with a needle and thread, a sewing machine or can cut a pattern to make new clothes will do very well for themselves
7. Autoshop or small engine repair shop. Aircraft carriers and long range submarines have small machine shops on them to create and repair broken parts when they eventually wear out. When you are under water for 6 months at a time you cannot just pop over to your local auto parts shop and pick up a new piece for whatever has broken. Being handy with auto repairs or small engine repairs will be a godsend in a world where no new cars will ever be made again.
8. Produce shop. Any one with a green thumb could do well with this one. Even when I lived in NYC I saw stalls at the bi-weekly Farmers market where farmers from upstate NY would make the trek down to sell their produce. Depending on where you live that could be apples, carrots, potatoes, cauliflower to grapes avocados and oranges. Know your soil and know your regions climate and go to town!
9. Stationary shop. Papers and pens, gift wrap and ribbons, cards and notes all of these may be hard to find if you are living way out of town. Post collapse people may be well stocked with Meals ready to Eat and Ammo but I can personally guarantee you that most will not have a stock pile of birthday and Christmas cards at hand. Remember one of the early episodes of The Walking Dead where it was Andrea’s sisters birthday and she asked Dale to find her some wrapping paper?
10. An ice-cream shop or parlor. There are so many varieties of ice cream these days compared to when I was growing up it makes my head spin. Kids of all ages love a cone or bowl of ice cream especially at the end of a hot day. The founders of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream completed a home correspondence course from Pennsylvania State University to get their start. They set up their first shop in renovated gas station and took over an old mill to create their first packing plant.perhaps you could follow in their footsteps too.
11. Home defense shop. Not everyone is cut out to repair cars or grow veggies, if you are defense minded you can apply your skills in helping others homesteads to become secure, especially against a marauding gang of Zombie Biker Mutants or whoever is roaming the wasteland after the fall.
12. A hardware store. Much like a machine shop (mentioned above) not everyone is going to think to stock up on nuts and bolts before the collapse of civilization as we know it.Keep in mind too that these days the average hardware store isn’t just about an inventory of tools and materials. Skills like laying tiles and installing an electrical switch box are also appreciated so perhaps you and another family member could join forces and use your strengths to create a well rounded hardware store with extra services.
13. A candy store. Even in the big cities boutique candy stores are a huge hit. Learn to make old fashioned candy’s (even in the wild west times candy stores were a big hit with the kids) and you will be laughing.
14. A chocolate shop. Much like a candy store everyone loves chocolate. In a post apocalyptic world there will be no Hersey or Cadbury’s. Even in today’s world there are many small independent specialized chocolate companies springing up and giving the multi national conglomerates a run for their money. perhaps you can too.
15. Computer repair shop. I had a good friend who worked for a local Apple computer repair shop. He said most repairs were very very simple and people had no clue how easy they were to fix and paid him a good wage for his know how. Just think in a future where no new computers are being made those with the skills to keep existing ones run for years on end will be in high demand.
16. A bakery shop (breads). People love fresh bread, and its something that doesn’t take major skills and techniques to be half way good at baking it. If you are handy in the kitchen a fresh bread shop might be the way for you to go.
17. A donut shop. A little more complicated then baking bread but specialized baking like lovely tasty delicious donuts would probably make you live like a king or queen in a post apocalyptic world.
18. A sandwich shop (like a small subway). If you are good at baking bread and growing your own veggies (perhaps your neighbors started a cheese making business and you can trade with them) then why not start a fresh sandwich shop?
19. A deli shop. By a deli shop I mean things like pickled vegetables and smoked meats not like a New york style bodega. If you get good at pickling and canning your own veggies, heck you could even sell them by the jar!.
20. Feed shop (grains for animals and livestock). Another over looked skill set to think about for the future. As important and goats cows and horses are for the farming community someone has to feed them and with the right foods too. This could be a nice niche to focus on.
With Winter rapidly approaching I thought it might be useful to post my 11 favorite cold weather tips for your homestead. Feel free to add your favorites in the comments section below.
* In winter time I make sure I always open my heavy drapes when the sun is up – even when the sun is weak just having it come in all day does make a significant temperature difference. At the same time I am always sure to draw the curtains when the sun sets to trap any warmth that may have built up during the day as windows are one of the biggest temperature sucks in your house.
* If you leave your oven door ajar after cooking the warm air helps heat your kitchen. In the pioneer days where families lived in simple one room cabins they would cook a stew over their wood powered stove for hours on end, which helped keep the cabin warm. By the same token I try to never use my stove in the summer months to help keep our kitchen cool. If you do have a wood stove for your homestead then make sure you do have more than enough wood to last the winter.
* Keep the doors closed to any unheated rooms in your homestead, I make a point of closing all the doors to the living room when me and my family are in there to help trap the warmth in there during the winter time.
* Make sure your generator is serviced and ready for the winter. As power outages lasting a few days or more are to be expected. Stock up on candles (even a few extra candles safely burning in your living room can increase the room temperature mid winter) and make sure you have enough fresh batteries for flashlights and digital devices. (cell phone chargers, handheld radios etc)
* Make sure you are well stocked up on food basics before any cold snaps. Most of us preppers have a 3 month or more supply of canned foods, meals ready to eat, powdered eggs and milk and drinking water. Its amazing in this day and age the amount of people that do not stock up until the TV news station is covering an impending storm. By then its usually too late and supermarket shelves have been picked clean.
* Be sure you have the following supplies for your car / vehicles before a cold snap: jumper cables, kitty litter for traction if you get stuck in snow, window washer fluid, keep the gas tank filled to at least half way at all times, snow chains for heavy snow, protein bars, warm blankets (in case you break down or get stuck) spare flash lights with fresh batteries.
* If you have an active use barn and plan to use heat lamps to keep your animals warm be sure to clear your barn before winter of dust and any cob webs as they are highly flammable and can easily lead to fires. It also pays to make sure any wires are kept out of reach as animals love to nibble and the last thing you want is one of your goats giving himself an electric shock. Tape them up if needed. If your heat lamps come with cages please make sure you have them installed and obviously do not position your heat lamps anywhere near your animals water supply or bedding.
* Ensure that all your animals have an ample supply of food stored and that their water troughs are free of ice during the winter months.
*If you do not have one already – consider getting a green house for your vegetable garden. Even unheated greens like celery, chard, parsley and some herbs do well in the winters months within the confines of a greenhouse. A fresh garden salad can do wonders mid January when your diet vegetable intake consists mainly of pickled foods.
* For your outdoor vegetable and plants do not forget to mulch the gardens before the cold sets in. The main reason behind this is to actually keep the cold in so that it prevents your plants from thawing as you do not want any new growth triggered in a warm spell mid winter. You know how it is sometimes you get a freakishly warm day in the middle of winter, this can trick the plants into thinking that spring is here and they start to grow new shoots and leaves. Many folks use a loose mix of shredded leaves to protect their plants but I also know people who swear by shredded newspapers!
* For baby trees consider getting wore guards (either make your own or purchase some from your favorite home and garden store) to protect them from being gnawed on by varmits over the winter. For evergreen trees fencing them in with burlap sacks helps protect them from the harsh elements. Many people I know fill the space between the burlap and the trees with insulation made up of dry and shredded leaves.
I originally wrote this as a request from one of my readers who wanted a guide on everything to do with fresh water for his homestead. After working on it – I thought to myself “why not share this on your blog for others out there who are interested?” So here you go – its long for a blog post so you may want to download a pdf of it or book mark this page and come back to it. As always leave me any questions in the comments section below.
As most of my readers know I grew up in Australia before moving to the Northern Hemisphere 26 years ago. Australia is pretty much the same size land mass as the lower 48 states of the USA, yet we have less people than the state of California with most of those people living very close to the coasts. The number one reason for this is, lack of a decent water supply in the inland areas. Without fresh water there is no life. Australian fresh water supplies coupled with a growing population since I left the country have meant heavy financial investments in desalination plants. Which are basically ways to turn Sea water into Fresh water at a very very expensive price. Can you imagine what happens to these water supplies in a long term grid down situation? Yup you guessed it. All gone. Those who are not prepared will be S.O.O.L. (Sh*t out of luck)
My mother traveled through Papua New Guinea in the early 1960s and saw tribal warfare over who got to control the local watering hole! Forget Mad Max style marauding gangs for “Gazzolene” for their muscle cars! Without fresh water they won’t be alive to get their precious gas.
Ok you say, that’s Australia, most of the country is pretty much desert – that can’t happen here in the U.S of A. Wrong. just look at what is going on in California and most of the Nation’s southwest for that matter. The very same thing that I have seen for years in Australia. Water shortages, lake’s drying up, farm land turning to dust bowls. Things are getting bad and in my opinion only going to get worse. Its up to us to take the right steps to ensure that our families are taken care of in times of drought or disaster.
In this blog post we are going to cover the following important water topics for Homesteaders.
* How to Collect Rain water
* How to purify water from lakes, streams and rivers
* How to disinfect your own well.
* How to check a potential property for a Seep or Spring
* How To Daisy Chain Rain Water Barrels together
* How to dig for a well
* How to keep water safe over a long periods of time
* How to test if you water is safe to drink
* Is Collecting your own Rainwater illegal?
How to Collect Rain water
In my opinion the most ideal water supply set up for us homesteaders is a gravity fed spring water supply. Not every property is going to have this so next best scenario would be a fresh water well, followed by a rain catchment system. Now you see why I am saying if you are currently located in the Southwest you might seriously want to consider moving to some where there are far more abundant water sources.
If you do find you have a fresh water spring on your property do make sure that any feeder pipes that you have going to your water holding tank are covered with screens to act as filters for any debris that may end up blocking your pipes . Speaking of holding tanks – we went for a concrete one. From some of the homesteaders I talked to regarding plastic holding tanks versus concrete ones they found that plastic ones did not fair so well buried in the ground. We have a 1500 gallon one on our property, price wise you can pick up a 1500 plastic holding tank for about $750 but a concrete one will set you back approximately $1750. Its the old adage though that you get what you pay for. My mind set right now is I would rather pay extra now for something that will last my lifetime versus saving $1000 only to have it fall to bits, no doubt at the most in-opportune time.
Even though gravity feed is ideal I would also like to suggest that you install a pressure pump system too. While I truly believe that you should be 100% off grid and self sufficient the amount of energy a pressure pump system uses to have water pressure just like your suburban home or apartment is miniscule. I am literally talking a couple of minutes a day. If the grid was to really go down long term using a pressure pump system with a solar battery pack would really not be much of a drain at all compared to the convenience it offers.
If you have been reading my guides for any length of time you know that I am huge believer in back up supply systems, we also went with a rain water catchment tank system as a back up supply of water for our homestead.
How to purify water from lakes, streams and rivers
I would like to think that everyone understands the health risks of drinking polluted water and the fact that even though water might look “clean” it may contain Bacteria, E.coli, Coliforms, Nitrates and other nasties that remain unseen with the human eye. Dirty water can cause, nausea, cramps vomiting and diarrhea which can be deadly for young children and the elderly. So its extremely important to understand how to clean your water to make it safe for drinking
There are pretty much six tried and tested ways to purify water for drinking purposes. For watering your garden, washing clothes, and showering you can be a little more lax on your purification methods, but still I believe its of importance to stay safe. All you need in a long term grid down situation is to mess up and swallow some unclean water while showering and get yourself bedridden for days on end. Not worth the risk in my opinion. Before we being I hope everyone knows WHY we need to purify our water before consumption? If not lets quickly review the little unseen nasties that can exist in our water supplies, whether from a nearby lake or stream, rain water storage or your preferred method of water storage. They are Bacteria, Protozoa, Parasites and Viruses.
Boiling water is the worlds oldest known method of making water safe to drink. If you are stuck in a jam and your water supply is in question a metallic pot with a nice seal-able lid and a heat source (gas source, camp fire, etc) will see you right. A seal-able lid is advisable not only because you bring your water to boil faster using less energy but you can let it sit and cool to one side after the water has boiled. Contrary to popular opinion you really only need to boil your water for a minute or two, to kill any pathogens in it, boiling it for 30 minutes at a time is over kill and in a grid down situation is not very functional either esp if you are relying on a wood fire to purify your water.
In the modern age one of the easiest and simplest ways to purify your water super is to use household bleach. Make sure you get the kind that has no dyes, perfumes,or phosphates in it. Just plain simple bleach that you can find at your local supermarket or dollar store. It goes without saying that if you were to sit there and chug a couple of pints of bleach you would more than likely get seriously ill. Although I doubt you would die. However in very small amounts bleach is probably the number one method most homesteaders use when it comes to making sure their water supply is safe to drink. The general rule of thumb is 2-4 drops per quart of water and let it sit for 30 minutes. If you water is cold it is advisable to use a couple more drops and or let it sit for a bit longer. I usually go for 1 hour tops on cold water.
I also think that it is worth mentioning – if you are in a bind say your well or water storage tanks have been compromised and you are going for lake or stream water, it is best to do some serious filtering first. As a general rule the chunks of plant life etc that you find when you scoop say, lake water will not kill you it is of course all the little unseen bacteria and parasites that will get ya. However if you use Bleach to purify your water the chemicals in bleach can bond with some of the harmless particle matter in lake water rendering it ineffective for killing parasites and viruses. So strain thru a t-shirt, or even a home made water filter before adding your bleach to your water.
* Iodine treatments
Iodine is another chemical treatment method of purifying your water supply. Iodine treatments kills bacteria, parasites and virus’s but doesn’t kill protoazas. The most commonly sold bottles of Iodine are the 5-7% solutions but for water purification only a 2% solution is needed. The general rule is 20 drops of iodine per 1 gallon of water and let it sit for 30 minutes, however if your water is cloudy looking or suspect you will need to leave it for longer. I would suggest filtering any cloudy water before begging your iodine treatment – if you are in a jam even using a t-shirt (or any woven material you have to hand) to strain your water before commencing treatment will help. The same goes with cold water which you will need to leave your iodine in for up to 3 hrs to be effective in killing pathogens. The down side with Iodine purification of water is that some people do have an allergy to it and might be best served using the bleach method mentioned above. Also you will notice on the bottles of iodine tincture there is a little skull and cross bones dangerous if ingested warning, this of course if taken in large does (undiluted) with all that in mind I would not use iodine treated water for more than 30 days straight. Its worth me mentioning too, always go for the bottle and not the iodine tablets they sell in camping and prepping stores, they can easily go bad with heat or poor storage conditions.
Pretty much any time I pick up a prepping magazine these days I see one of those ads for those portable filters, that look like oversized straws that hikers, campers and survivalists can carry in their bug out bag. Designed for people to be able to grab safe drinking water from even a filthy puddle of water when on the move. They are supposed to be able to filter out dangerous waterborne pathogens for the user. For Homesteading purposes filters work in a similar fashion to these, however I do want to point out that filtering water of sediment , toxic chemicals and pollutants will not always take care of nasty viruses. For that you need a purifier after your filter.
For off grid living, Gravity fed water filters are the best bet, even if you are still using the cities power lines, keep in mind that in a long term grid down situation all your electric powered filters and pumps will be rending useless. Most times after a serious natural disaster when the city power lines go – so does the water supply, you run the risk of not just sewage waste backing up and ruining your water supply but also even dead bodies. Think the Tsunami disaster in Indonesia and Thailand or the Japanese earthquake /tsunami disaster. A solar powered pump / filter combo actually uses very little energy and should be seriously considered over relying on the cities power supply.
Large size water storage tanks and filters can be purchased relatively cheaply from your local Home Depot, Lowes Home building supplies store. The more expensive the water filter the more effective it will be , I have to add that even with the top of the line models the filters will wear out over time and need replacing. The more effort you can take before your water enters your filtering system to remove sediment and pond scum the longer they will last. From all the homesteaders I know the general consensus with them all is that gravity fed filtering systems are the way to go.
Distilling water requires boiling it and catching the steam. The process removes salts, Heavy metals and toxic chemicals in your water. Very similar to water desalination plants that convert Salt water to fresh water its an energy extensive method of creating safe drinking water, but beats drinking salt water when dehydrated, which can be very deadly. An example of a home created distilling water process would be to have a large metal pot half filled with your unclean water, on a fire or stove with a sealable pot lid tipped upside down with a smaller pot hung from the upside lid handle to catch the water droplets as they reach the lid and slide down towards the center.
* Ultraviolet Light
Using UV rays from the sun has been a method of creating safe drinking water for over 4000 years now. Records show the people of Ancient India utilizing this method back then. Using UV rays kills the waterborne pathogens that can cause, Diarrhea, Ecoli, Salmonella and more. This method isn’t advisable for those of us in the frozen north (where we have an abundance of woods to use in water boiling methods anyways) but much more suited for homesteaders based in the Southwest or Australia.
Anyways with that said the basic method require you filling up a clear plastic water bottle (do not use colored plastic bottles as they have a tendency to not let the necessary UV rays in and the sun’s handiwork will not be effective.) and laying them on its side in the sun usually for about 5-6 hours. Try to not use bottles big than a liter as this method is most effective in smaller size bottles. You also don’t want to lay your bottles out say in the morning sun as when the sun swing around from the East then you will not be getting the full effects of the suns rays. A south face roof top would be ideal. Also keep in mind the following :
1) placing the bottles directly on a very hot metal roof may cause them to warp or be damaged
2) placing the bottles on paper or dry grass may cause the grass or paper to catch fire. Surely everyone remembers starting fires with a magnifying glass when they were a kid..don’t they?.
If you do not have any 1 liter or smaller plastic bottles heavy duty freezer bags will work just as well, in fact some people say better as they lay flat on the surface and there for the water get more evenly blasted by the suns rays.(again quart or maximum gallon size bags only !
If you are traveling or bugging out to your homestead during a disaster you may want to invest in a Steripen. It’s a small hand held device that uses ultraviolet light to make safe drinking water for yourself. Depending on your situation and budget you may want to consider purchasing one they can be picked up for anything between $49-$99.
* Chemical purification tablets
Iodine treatment (mentioned above is one form of Chemical purification method) there are various other treatments (such as chlorine tablets etc) that can be purchased from camping and sporting stores. I would only recommend these for people with allergies to Iodine and only for small does of water. Eg if you are bugging out to your homestead.
* Life straw
No one water purification treatment is ideal in eradicating 100% of the nasties that threaten you and your families health and well being. When it comes to this KEY resource always be safe and over cautious, taking extra care and diligence in purifying your water whatever method you prefer. Leaving your water bottles out in the sun for an extra hour because you were worried that the sun went behind a couple of clouds earlier in the day is a minor inconvenience versus fighting off Dysentery right?
How to disinfect your own well.
Well water can become contaminated over time. I would recommend picking up some household well water test kits – you can grab them for under $20 from Amazon (click here) These affordable kits will show you if there are any toxins in your well and they also show you dangerous bacteria levels too.
You can disinfect your well using the bleach method mentioned above. Before you start you will need a gallon of non scented household bleach , rubber gloves, safety goggles (or some form of eye protection) a plastic funnel and some old clothes (as to not damage your good ones).
1.Before you begin if your well water is cloudy or muddy run the water from an outside spigot with a hose attached until the water becomes clear.
2.Check what type of well you have and the best way to pour the bleach in. For example some well’s have sanitary seals so you will have to remove those before you add the bleach. Others may just have an entire cover you can lift off to add your bleach.
Take your bleach and carefully pore it into your well. Use your funnel if needed
After the gallon of bleach has been added, run an outside hose into the well casing until you smell the chlorine from the bleach coming from the hose
turn on every cold water faucet connected to your water supply and let it run until you smell the chlorine then shut it off. If you have a water treatment system switch it to bypass until you have finished.
Wait 12-24 hrs before using your water system again. Right now your system contains high amounts of Chlorine and will not be safe to drink.
Once the waiting period is over run a hose to a safe area where it will not affect your plants, lakes, streams or septic system, until you cannot smell chlorine anymore. Your water is now safe to use.
Its recommended to retest your water supply 7-10 days after disinfecting to see if there is any bacteria remaining. Use the kits that I talked about above.
How to check a potential property for a Seep or Spring
the best time to review potential sites for your off grid cabin is during the late summer and early Autumn. If you check properties in the winter or spring time you are going to see the best case scenario for water supplies on that piece of land which will not really give you the fairest indication of the water supply potential. Ask the realtor to show you the seep or spring,, if they’re not much help then search for depressions in the land that appear extra green or the earth is mossy and soft.. Any signs of vegetation changes in a piece of land are pretty good indicators of a seep or spring so keep your eyes open. If the property has a seep but not a spring it can still be used as a potential water supply. My way of testing the strength of a seep is to use a gallon water bottle or jug and time how long it takes to fill up. For example 2 minutes to fill a gallon jig is a pretty good yard stick. Mountain type terrain with a water supply is a great way to have a gravity fed spring – so keep that in mind.
How To Daisy Chain Rain Water Barrels together
If you want to collect rainwater from your roof to use for watering your gardens and you live in a climate with a decent rainfall you have probably thought about connecting more than one 55 gallon barrel together to save your water. This is a great idea and relatively simple and fairly low cost to do. Even though I can this water is not going to be collected for drinking I do suggest that if your budget allows it to purchase brand new FOOD GRADE water barrels and not pick up free ones from craigslist or used ones from ebay. In my opinion the risk of using barrels that may have stored toxic chemicals or waste is just not worth the cost of a few hundred dollars. (You can purchase 55 gallon food grade water drums for about $70 each at home depot.)
There are two main ways to daisy chain the barrels together – one school of thought is to cut the over flow holes near the top of each barrel and the other at the bottom. I have only tried the top (over flow method) so I can’t really say whats best, but people that I spoke to were pretty evenly split on which method they preferred. Make sure that before you start that you have enough space near one of your house’s gutters and that the space is level and clear of all debris. Pretty much everyone I spoke to used cinder blocks or wooden pallets to elevate their 55 gallon drums off the ground.
I started with the first drum I purchased an Atrium grate from Home depot (which costs about $4.00) and turned it upside and drew around the widest part to trace where I would cut the top of my collection barrel as a template. An Atrium grate is used to keep leaves, sticks twigs etc out of your water barrels. If you live in an area which is besieged by mosquitoes it is highly advisable to cover your grate in drain sleeve a fine cloth that’s used to prevent them getting into your barrel and laying their eggs in the water.
About 6 inches down from the top of the first barrel and on the side I drilled a hole using a 3/4” spade drill bit to act as the over flow outlet. Using 3/4” garden hose adapters I screwed into the hole , and I used plumbers putty to seal the adapter with a locking nut on the inside of each barrel. Then I measured off a length of garden hose that would reach each adjoining barrel and used a female hose adapter to attach the hose to the barrel. You can then repeat for each respective drum. I used a spigot set up at the bottom of my final barrel to be able to run off the chain and to fill buckets and watering cans for my vegetable gardens.
Tip for those of you living in cold climates: If you have freezing temperatures in the winter, you definitely want to drain the barrels, and leave the valve open, Divert all the water from going into the barrels in the winter, otherwise your plumbing on the bottom will burst when the water in it freezes.
How to dig for a well
Hiring a company to come out and dig a well on your property if there isn’t one there already can prove to be a costly affair, with local companies quoting me around $5000 to get it all done for you.
Before you get started you will need to check with your state’s geological survey department to find out what type of soil you have on your property. Obviously drilling down through sandy/loamy soil is going to be easier than clay and rocky soil. They can advise you on how deep you will have to drill down tp find quality water on your property. It is worth mentioning that why you may get lucky and find a decent water supply at say 30ft down, most quality well water (at least from the homesteaders that I talked to was found at around the 100ft level.
State by state there are different rulings on set backs (how far your well must be away from your septic tank or sewer lines) and a quick search on the internet for your specific state for your requirements shouldn’t take you long, but as a general rule you want to be at least 50 ft away from your septic tank and on higher ground as well. You will also want to check before you start drilling that there are no utility lines or existing pipes below that you may damage once you have figured out your drill site.
Depending on how far out you are in your country you may or may not require a building permit before you start to drill your well.
I actually like their method a lot – no hiring of rigs and heavy equipment to master. Its a simple system with a drill and air hose that pumps the water up and out creating a vacuum so that your drill bit doesn’t get stuck in the mud. If this sounds like something that interests you then go to their website (link above) where they have a couple of videos explaining how it works in detail. Its definitely a low cost alternative to hiring heavy duty equipment and a bunch of guys to dig your well for you.
How to keep water safe over a long periods of time
* Outside of having your own well, water tank or spring I think it pays to have some water stored away separately in the event of emergencies. Most homesteaders and preppers that I spoke to whilst working on this guide recommend a minimum of a two week supply of water stored , ideally more if you have the room. Working on the gallon per person, per day rule that works out to be 14 gallons for 2 weeks water so if you are part of a 4 person family you are going to AT LEAST need 56 gallons stored for a 2 week period.
Best bet for keeping your water safe over a long period of time is food grade plastic 55 gallon containers, you can find them for sale online for less than $100, I would definitely go for new and not used in this scenario. Steel 55 gallon drums are no good as chlorine (which you will use to treat your water damages the steel)
I would definitely suggest that do not use a common garden hose to fill your water bottles but a dedicated drinking water hose which you can find on Amazon from about $10 and up. (depending on the length required etc)
Dedicated drinking water hoses are lead free, BPA free, phthalate free and don’t give your that weird plastic taste you used to get as a kid drinking from the garden hose on hot days.
There are two school of thought when it comes to long term storage of water and treatment with chlorine, many preppers believe that if you use city supplied tap water to fill your barrels that you do not need to include any added chlorine to your tanks since city water is already heavily chlorinated. However if you are using water from your well to store I do believe its wise to add some chlorine to your barrels. Keep in mind water does not spoil, its CONTAMINATION that makes it go bad. So be sure to seal your barrels correctly after filling.
Some of the homesteaders that I talked to like to store their plastic water barrels on wooden pallets in their garage as opposed to letting the containers sit directly on their concrete floor, this is done out of the belief that there could be a potential chemical reaction between the concrete and water barrels, which I am not entirely convinced is necessary. But hey if it helps you sleep at night its a low cost step to take.
How to test if you water is safe to drink
The easiest and simplest way to test if your water is safe to drink is the DIY test kits that you can find these days available on Amazon. They are going to set you back about $17 and are very easy to use. However they are not always 100% accurate in general they will give you the general idea if your water is safe or not. They test for Ph levels, chlorine levels pesticides, lead, nitrates and of course bacteria.
Search on Amazon for “First Alert WT1 Drinking Water Test Kit”.
I must add that no cheap DIY test kit is going to be as detailed and as accurate in their analysis as a full blown lab that tests for everything but in a grid down situation I do not think any of these labs will be open for business even if you could afford their fees, if you get what I am saying.
Is Collecting your own Rainwater illegal?
If you have spent anytime at all on the internet and Facebook in the last 2 years I am sure you have seen articles or links that friends have posted and shared about someone getting arrested or even imprisoned for collecting their own rainwater! Most of these sensationalistic articles are designed for nothing more than to get you to click the link (these are called “click bait” in the blogging business) they are pretty much all a re-hash of the same thing exaggerated claims backed up by little and or no facts.
The truth is rainwater harvesting is NOT ILLEGAL. It has been restricted in some states but even those states (Utah, Washington State and Colorado) have relaxed their laws in recent years. In some other states rain water harvesting is regulated, meaning you will have to obtain a permit to do so no different then getting a building permit to work on your house. If you have seen the article about the Colorado man who WAS jailed he had applied for his permit, got denied But went ahead and built 3 reservoirs regardless. That was his real crime, not collecting rainwater. If you are still concerned make sure you contact your local state authorities and double check what the laws are in your particular state.
Water is essential for all living things, without it we die. I truly believe that as the world goes on we are going to have more and more issues with our personal water supplies. Higher costs in getting water from the city, more recycled water and a lot more de-salinated water as well. If you have yet to purchase your own homestead I sincerely urge you to make sure it is in an area with a good annual rainfall and ideally the property has its own well or spring. Far better to take these steps now instead of leaving it for a few more years where properties with well will only increase in price far faster than those without.
As always thanks for reading and do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions
We all know how important the ability of making a fire if you are ever stuck off grid and away from civilization.Some of us carry lighters, safety matches or even the ever stryke matches. Creating fire using the old fashioned hand drill looks so easy on Tv and in films but its actually a really hard skill to master. Watch this video and as always leave a comment below!
Remember how important dry materials are for your kit. For your first time, it’s helpful to keep your board and spindle out of humidity, in the sun, and in a dry place for a couple of weeks. If you use this same board for hand conditioning practice, it will further dry it out from the heat you generate. As you build up your skills, you can try materials that are right from nature (for this video I used materials that I gathered that day and did not pre-dry in any way).
In this video we want to share with you the hand saws we use on our homestead. In a day and age where power tools seem to prevail, the benefits of hand saws can’t be ignored – especially when it comes to off grid living as that often goes hand-in-hand with having limited power!
We use hand saws frequently on our property whether we’re cutting joinery or cutting branches. We have quite the collection of saws at this point and want to share with you what the different saws are and what saws may be best for your journey.
There are a lot of questions around homesteading (especially living off the grid) about female happiness. Statistically, more men are probably interested in living off grid than women, as some women desire a higher level of comfort than men, and they may think that living off grid with limited access to resources is “icky”.
In this video, we want to share some tips from what living off grid is like from a female perspective. It really isn’t all that different to living on grid, or even being male, but if you plan on taking this journey as a woman, or want a woman to take this journey with you, here are some tips that you may find helpful from being clean, to female hygiene, all the way to just being comfortable in a new lifestyle!
Come take a tour of our spring 2016 Garden! We are busy planting and getting our garden ready for spring. We have lots of our plants in the ground with more to come but we are in the heart of spring the garden is beginning to come alive.
We use the back to eden garden method combined with lasagna layering with different composts and materials. We are big into putting rock dusts and manures in our garden each year and we never till our garden soil. We just layer the top and plant. Easy Peasy and we have amazing growth!