Thursday, February 16, 2017

We FINALLY Cut The Cable Cord!

It took a few years, but I finally convinced my family to cut the cable cord! This will save us over 1,200 dollars a year!

We haven't been watching much TV for the past year anyway, most shows are of such poor quality that I can't stand to have them on. When we want to watch something, we have been relying more and more on Amazon Prime. We can watch movies, documentaries and the few TV series that we like WITHOUT ANNOYING COMMERCIALS! Sometimes I don't know which is worse, the amoral programming or the amoral commercials.

Well, now I don't have to put up with either. Santa brought us a new 'smart' TV for Christmas (all our other TVs are 20 years old - or older!) so we can access Amazon prime directly from the TV. My husband also bought a digital antenna so we can pick up our local news channels for weather updates. It is an indoor antenna positioned close to a NE facing window. We receive 18 channels! Many of them show old TV shows and movies from the 50's - 80's. They are a delight to watch! (In moderation, of course.)

I wish I could have done this years ago! However, when you don't live by yourself, life is always a compromise. I am just glad it has happened now!
On another note, I apologize for my erratic posting lately!  We are still looking for land and it has taken up much more of my time than I anticipated!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Time to Make This Years Fire Starters!

These things are SO handy! We use them every time we make a fire at home and when we are camping. I just used the last one in the fireplace, so it is time to make more!

Normally, I make these outside in our fire pit. However, today it is cold and quite windy. I have decided to make them in the house (read that to mean I used electricity!)

I made two kinds, one using dryer lint and one using newspapers/shredded papers.

Dryer lint method:

At our house, making fire starters isn't a one day project. Actually, I am making them throughout the year. It takes that long to collect the ingredients I need to make them. I start with lint from the dryer. It takes all year for me to collect a significant amount because I don't use the dryer that often. Most of the lint I collect is from my husband using the dryer. I stuff the lint into empty toilet paper rolls.

Then, once a year, I dip the lint-filled toilet paper rolls in wax. You can use these without the wax, but they burn longer and steadier once you coat them with wax. It also makes sense to waterproof them for emergencies and times when you need to start a fire in the rain. Dipping them in wax is very easy, but it can be a bit messy. I covered the counter with freezer paper to make clean up easy. In addition to the dryer lint, you will need wax, string and scissors.

Start with a small amount of water in a pot. You need a double boiler to melt the wax and I don't have one. I used my small soap pot instead. You will also need a container for melting the wax. I used a Christmas cookie tin. I have used this one for years. I leave the left over wax stored in it from year to year.

Put the container with the wax into the boiling water. Once I did that, I turned the heat down some to keep the boiling water from splashing around. 

After this wax started to melt, I added another pound of the Gulf Wax to the container and let that melt as well. Needless to say, please be careful, the melting wax gets very hot. If you touch it, it will stick to your skin and you can get burned. 

While the wax was melting, I prepared the paper rolls. I tied them with string to make dipping in the wax easier. Make the string long enough so you don't need to touch the hot wax. The string also makes lighting the starters easy. 

They don't have to look pretty, they just have to hold together so everything can be dipped in the wax and not fall apart. I dip one at a time so I don't make a mess. While holding the string, dip one and hold it under the melted wax (with a spoon, not your fingers) for a few seconds to let the wax penetrate both the lint and the paper.

When finished, hold the string up and let the wax drip back into the container.

When it stops dripping, place on a piece of wax paper or freezer paper to cool. 

When the fire starters are completely cool and the wax has hardened, store until needed! 
I store mine in a plastic bag with the newspaper logs in the garage.

Shredded paper method (aka - Fire Bricks):

FYI - making fire bricks also takes about a year to collect enough newspaper/junk paper to make them. They are a breeze to make and burn quite efficiently! They can also be used as the only fuel in a Kelly Kettle or volcano stove! Here is how you do it:
Shred your newspapers or junk mail. You can shred by hand or machine. There isn't any difference in the quality of the bricks. Be sure not to shred any credit cards or other plastic in the batch you will use to make the bricks.

Place the shredded papers in a pail with water. Soak the papers well. If you shred by hand, you may have to soak them for a few hours. If you shred by machine, you don't have to wait that long. 

The papers will reduce down a lot. Stir and let them soak for a few minutes to a few hours. Stir again. Break up any lumps. The lumps are not saturated with water yet. If you had to break up a lot of lumps, wait a few more minutes and stir again.

Compact the shredded papers together (allowing the water to drain out). There are a couple of ways to do this:
  • Get a mold. You can purchase a paper brick mold to do this - online stores sell them. I don't have a brick mold. I prefer to keep mine small so I use an old cookie press. When filling, compress the papers every so often then add more. Your brick will be bigger this way. Add the top and squeeze the handle. Remove the cookie cutter and squeeze the handle until the brick comes completely out.

  • You could also use your hands to compress the paper, the same way you would make a snowball. It isn't hard, I have osteoarthritis and I do just fine. 
  • Let them dry completely. They are going to take a couple of days to dry. If you used a paper brick mold, it could take a few weeks. That's it!  Here is a picture of one I did with the cookie press and one I did by hand.

We now have enough fire starters to last through next January!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

My Vision of Self-Reliance

I have a different point of view on what self reliance is. (Come to think of it, I have a unique point of view on everything!) My husband and I have decided that now is the time to focus our efforts on our future vision of self-reliance. Now is the time because we think (expect?) the US economy is going to kick into high gear now that we have a new president. This may put rural acreage out of our price range if we wait too long. So, we have been driving around for the past month or so looking at land that we can move to (in about a year to 18 months). We want this land to be something we can use now, and will also meet our needs when we retire.

So what exactly are we looking for?

Well, self reliance to most people means taking care of your self, your family and helping out your community when you can - and doing it all on your own, without help or handouts from others. Our family takes this to another level. We consider self-reliance to be not requiring anything on a continuous basis from any government agency or quasi-governmental agency. This includes our utilities. We don't want city water or sewer services. Nor do we want electricity or TV services. (While we don't really need internet and wireless phone services for our personal life, we do need both to run our business. Hopefully, that need will end when we retire in a decade.)

We want to live where we don't need stores either. Now, I don't mind going to the store once a quarter or so, just like the pioneers did, but not weekly or bi-weekly. Without a cow and chickens of my own, it isn't possible to do that. Cooking with powdered milk and powdered eggs limits my trips to the store, but having my own cow and chickens (as well as a larger garden) is truly self-reliance to me. When it is time to 'go to the store' I want to go out to my land to harvest what I need.

Different states and each county in those states, all have different rules! I have been spending a lot of time on the phone asking questions of local governments. One county employee actually told me that all homes in that county require a continuous source of electric power to get an occupancy permit, and that solar panels with batteries (and a whole house propane generator for back-up) are not considered a continuous supply of electricity! The problem with that is the land we were interested in was almost two miles away from the nearest power line! This is such a shame because those 20 acres we looked at in that county were beautiful! Another property we were interested in did not have access to a phone line (and satellite internet won't meet our business needs).

So on we go! I am doing most of the research, because my husband is super busy with work right now. I am learning a lot about building a house on rural land in all the southern states, and plenty about many of the counties we have targeted in each state as well! 

We are praying for guidance from our Heavenly Father on where we should look next. I certainly hope we find what we are looking for soon - I want to plant the apple and peach trees on our new property this year!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Is It Time to Tighten Your Belt?

Money wise I mean! The Christmas bills are coming in this month and we all could use some reminders on how to save money.

Here are some of the latest ideas I have found on how to save money this winter and spring:

These lists have a few ideas in common. In my opinion, that is the best place to start!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Still Living Without a Microwave!

I updated the feature post (over in the left column), last week and just wanted to provide an update to it.  I wrote that post 2 1/2 years ago and we still don't have a new microwave!

I don't miss it a bit and don't plan on getting a new one!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Easy Ways To Add Moisture To Your Home This Winter

Is your house too dry in the winter? It is easy to tell, try going through the day without a static electric shock! You can always purchase a humidifier to solve the problem, but that costs money and electricity. 

What is my solution? I offer three inexpensive ways to add moisture to your home! 

#1. Set out bowls of water throughout the house. This is the easiest one to do! Once you set them up, all you need to do is fill them once a week or so. I fill mine when I am watering my plants. Note of caution, don't put the bowls of water on the floor, someone will kick them over. When I lived in a different state, the heat vents in our home were in the floor. I would put the bowls of water next to the heat vents. My family was always knocking them over. On top of a cabinet or bookcase where they will not be disturbed works better.

#2. Skip the dishwasher drying cycle and open the door to let the dishes air dry. I typically don't use the dishwasher, instead I opt to wash them by hand. However, if the dishes pile up and overwhelm (this usually happens at holiday time), I will grudgingly use the dishwasher. All you need to do is turn off the drying cycle. When the dishwasher stops, open the door. Quite a bit of steam and moisture will be released into the house! It will warm the air and the dishes dry quite quickly!

#3. Don't use the clothes dryer! Drying your clothes on a clothes rack in the winter is an easy way to add moisture to your home! In addition, there are quite a few other benefits of giving your dryer some time off:
  • You will save money. In my opinion, this is the biggest benefit in forgoing the dryer. There is a significant difference in my electric bill between the months I use the dryer and the months I don't. (Your mileage may vary if you have a gas dryer.)
  • Your clothes will last longer. All that lint your dryer produces, isn't good for your clothes. What is lint? It is the breakdown of the clothing fibers. While you can do some creative things with the lint your dryer produces, your clothes will be better off if they don't produce it in the first place.
  • It will help reduce allergens. If you have allergy problems, you can greatly reduce your exposure to pollen by drying your clothes indoors. While I am not opposed to drying clothes outdoors on a clothes line, many neighborhood associations forbid it (including mine). In addition, any sensitivities to the chemicals in dryer sheets can be eliminated when you air dry your laundry.
If you have a basement, you have a ready made area to hang a clothes line. However, not everybody does. I know someone who hangs her clothes on the back of her kitchen chairs. She lives in the southwest and the clothes dry very quickly there. Here in the southeast, our clothes don't dry that quickly, so I use another solution. I use drying racks. I set them up at night so they are not in the way. By morning, the clothes are dry. 

I usually put them in the family room. With a hot fire going in the fireplace, they can even dry in just a few hours! If you are interested, there are many places you can get drying racks. Google it and you should find lots of sources.

Here is a picture of my racks in use a few days before Christmas.

OK, I will admit skipping the dryer does take some planning. If you need a certain piece of clothing right away, this idea may not work. However, I can state it is easy to do, and it will make your house warmer and add a significant amount of moisture to the air. In my opinion, when compared to using the dryer, the additional time it takes to hang the clothes on the racks is no more than a few minutes.

Almost everyone finds static electricity and very dry air in their home annoying during the winter season. (And we all know dry air makes your skin feel dry too!) These tips will help you to add moisture to the air without a lot of time and effort. This will raise the humidity and make the environment in your house feel warmer and more comfortable without turning up the thermostat. You won't get as many static shocks when you walk across the rugs or pet the dog either!

And best of all, these tips are a frugal answer to a common problem!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A New Way to Look At A New Year

One of the things I love about my Church is they have answers for any question about life you can think of!