Posts Tagged With: Simple Living

Tips for Using Your Push Mower

I realize that in some parts of the country, there is still snow on the ground.  Down here in central Texas, though, I just finished mowing the lawn for the second time.  Whew!  I’m grateful that our backyard here is modest, since even this “mild” spring weather is hot to me.

Here are some tips in case you are new to using a push-reel mower and finding it difficult.

Push mower

1. Clean the yard first.  Our power mower could chop up sticks, but twigs will get caught in the reel of the push mower, bringing you to a stop and you’ll have to reverse the blades to get it out before you continue mowing.  Frequent starts and stops require a lot more energy than maintaining momentum.  A few minutes spent looking for sticks and rocks and small kids’ toys, anything that might get caught in the mower’s blades, and removing them from the grass before you get started is time well spent.

2.  Set your blades higher.  Longer grass uses less water, and higher blades will promote that, taking just a little off the top.  If you cut the grass shorter, it might need more passes of the mower, which can double (or more) the time you spend mowing.

3.  Mow more often.  While longer grass is good for water conservation, let it get too long and you’ll have trouble getting the push mower through it at all.  This is especially true of thick lawns or lawns with hills.  Our new lawn has a bit of a rise in one area and that grass is harder to mow.  If we were to “let it go” it would be very difficult to cut with the push mower.

4.  Use a trimmer for the edges.  I’ve had a  hard time getting the push mower to do a good job cutting the grass at the edges of the lawn where it meets with the fence or the patio.  Instead of struggling over those areas over and over, I just mow as close as I can and then clean up the edges with the trimmer.

5.  Mow in sections.  Our front yard here is about the same size as it was in Colorado, but the grass here is thick and harder to get the mower through.  It makes the job tough for me in the heat (I know!  Wimpy Colorado girl in Texas!).  Instead of sweating my way through the whole job at once, I break it into two or three more manageable chunks.  The mower is lightweight so it’s no big deal to walk it back to the backyard while I take a break, get a drink or water my garlic.  Then after I’m refreshed, I take on the next section of lawn.  I can still get the job done, both front and back yards, in under an hour including the breaks.

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Categories: Simple Living, Sustainability, Top 5 | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Thrifty Thursday: DIY Swiffer Cloths

We have hard flooring throughout our house here.  Tile in the kitchen and bath and wood floors everywhere else.  There is a great tool for keeping those floors clean, most of you know it; the Swiffer.  But those Swiffer cloths get expensive.

My solution: mirco-fiber towels.  I have a couple of micro-fiber towels that will fit perfectly onto the head of my Swiffer.

And when I need to spot clean something with a mop?  I just get the cloth wet, wring it out and poof! – a Swiffer wet mop.

Micro Fiber Cloth

Go forth and attack your dust bunnies!

Categories: DIY, Thrift | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Plugging In

During a long talk with Rick at the beginning of November, during which I was feeling quite overwhelmed with projects and homeschooling and life in general, I decided to go ahead and normalize our kitchen again.  We plugged the fridge back in.

We unplugged the fridge in May of 2011. It was supposed to be a month-long experiment.  We left it unplugged for a year and a half.  So, I guess in that way, it was a total success.  We had a great system down, and we pretty much forgot what life with a refrigerator was like.

I liked it, being weird and different and extreme.  But also, Rick and I were getting to the point where we craved a little normalcy and simplicity in our lives in general.  The fridge was a sort of symbol for me of this crazy, hippie extreme life that I wanted to have.  And, Rick, being super supportive, has come along for the ride, and for the most part, we have that life.

We grow our food or buy from local farms, we have chickens and bees.  I never buy cereal or use paper plates or paper towels.  I’ve made our own laundry soap and dishwasher detergent.  We’ve cloth diapered (3 kids), etc.  You get the point.

IMG_6868

But sometimes being weird can wear on you.  It was wearing on us both (not the fridge, but you know… everything).

One of my good friends talks about how tough it can be to live in two worlds.  You know the two… one in which all your friends only buy gluten-free, sustainably harvested, BPA-free, GMO-free, soy-free, local, handmade, hand loomed, home-grown, vegetarian fed, and free range.  And the other world: the on sale, easy clean-up, big box, double coupon, plastic, convenient, drive-thru, battery operated, disposable one.

I mean, take a kid’s birthday party.  Imagine hosting 25 people but using nothing disposable.  No paper plates or plastic forks or crêpe paper streamers.  Or if you do use plastic cups you feel guilty, even for the biodegradable ones.  The guilt.

So I decided to let go.  Not of everything.  Sometimes I use a paper towel or 100% recycled paper plate.  The fridge was something simple that could go back to normal, not be so weird.

You wouldn’t believe how novel it felt.  Having a freezer inside the house, having room for anything in the fridge.  We hosted Thanksgiving dinner this year.  I let the turkey thaw in the fridge, and there was room for other things.  It was amazing!   (By the way, we also hosted T-day without a fridge, it’s totally doable).

This doesn’t mean I’m going all conventional, back to disposable everything.  But it does mean I’m giving myself more grace.  I don’t need to be perfect or extreme.  I just need to keep trying.

Categories: Simple Living, Unplugging the Fridge | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

What to Expect from the Lazy Homesteader in 2013

I’ve thought pretty hard about the “resolutions” I want to share on the blog for this year.  I’ve had a hard time thinking of specific goals, and I’m not really into the “lose twenty pounds” type of resolutions.  I’ve decided that instead of goals I wanted to focus on some themes that are both personal to me and yet very applicable to the homesteading way of life.

This year, you can expect to see posts (hopefully weekly, realistically a couple of times a month) having to do with one or two of the following themes.

Rick hikng with C on his backCommunity – In 2012, I established a monthly potluck to help build community.  I made some new friends and built connections.  In 2013 I want to do this more.  I want more connection, more real relationships.  I have realized that no one can live this life alone.  We need each other and I want more of it.  I have a challenge in mind for this theme this year.  I’m excited about it, though it’s going to be a tough one.

Preparedness – Colorado had the worst wild-fire of all time in 2012.  There were hurricanes on the East coast.  For much of the country, there were record heat waves and drought.  Across the country there were poor harvest and food prices are on the rise.  I’m not a panicky or prepper or anything like that, but I have started thinking about the benefits of being prepared in a real emergency.

Thrift – Expect to see more DIY posts this year.  From homemade to making-do to doing without, I plan to share more thrifty ideas this year.

Food Connections – This is the thing that sent me down the homesteading path all those years ago; being connected to our food.  I have plans to share about sustainable food sources, processing your own meat (including wild game and hunting), and of course the garden.  This year I am going to explore as many aspects of food connection as I can.  I hope to close some of the gaps we’ve had in our own food sources as well.

Grace – This year I plan to go easier on myself.  You guys know I love a crazy goal.  But I also need a little more balance, and my kids certainly need a sane mommy.  So I plan to cut myself a little slack this year.  I’ve realized that this journey to being green and crunchy and self-sufficient is just that, a journey.  I don’t have to do it all at once.  It’s ok to take small steps and find what is feasible for our family.  I’m not throwing the baby out with the grey water or anything, but I am going to focus more on things like simplicity, peace, and well, the categories mentioned above.  :)

I’m really looking forward to 2013 and what it will bring.  And I’m excited to share our homestead with you as always.

Categories: Community, DIY, Simple Living, Thrift, Top 5, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ax Skills for the Homestead & Wilderness DVD Winner

Drawn by a random number generator….. Cass is the winner!  I will email you, Cass, with instructions on how to get your DVD.

If you didn’t win, make sure you visit oldfedco.com and order a copy for yourself.   Thanks again to Alex and Old Federal Ax Co. for this awesome giveaway!

Categories: DIY, Giveaways, Simple Living, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Giveaway: Ax Skills for the Homestead & Wilderness Survival DVD

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Alex Leavens, a survival instructor in the Portland, Oregon area, asking if I would review his DVD, “Ax Skills for the Homestead & Wilderness Survival.”  He thought that my readers here might be interested in his DVD.  After checking out his website, OldFedCo.com, I agreed.

The Review:

I’ve never seen such a detailed “how-to” DVD.  Alex meticulously covers everything from safely handing an ax, chopping wood and making kindling, to sharpening your ax and replacing an ax handle.

I really loved how clear he was about safety.  The graduated 4-Her in me also couldn’t help but think that the instruction on the DVD would really help in the making of a blue ribbon, Grand Champion 4-H project.  I would be totally comfortable having Henry watch this DVD  because it is so thorough and emphasizes safety so well.  This is actually not that surprising though, since in his bio, Alex states he was an Eagle Scout.

I was totally impressed with Alex’s accuracy in splitting and reading wood.  Since it’s easy to impress a beginner, I brought Rick in to watch the DVD with me.  Rick has chopped a fair share of firewood.  He’s not an expert on axes, but he  knows a bit about sharpening tools and safety.  I wanted his point of view on the accuracy of the information presented in the DVD.

It was cool watching the chapters on sharpening and safety and hearing Rick pipe up with plenty of “Yep! That’s the way,” as well as having him tell me what he was learning as we watched.  I liked the chapters on hanging an ax (replacing the handle) because my grandpa gave Rick all of his old tools and this DVD will be a great reference tool on caring for and maintaining them.

It is obvious while watching the DVD that Alex really knows his stuff and is also passionate about teaching.  The DVD is extremely thorough.  There are great close-ups of what he’s doing to sharpen his ax, as well as shots from many different angles showing exactly what is happening and how to do it yourself.   It made me feel like I could choose and buy an ax, use it with confidence and maintain it myself.  Check out some of the clips of the DVD on Alex’s site for some examples to see what I mean.

The section on using an ax in the back country was really cool.  I liked seeing how he set himself up using what was in the woods to split wood, make kindling and make stakes.  He even shows you how to make an in-field sharpening station.  Plus, I loved that even in the woods, he was very consistent and followed all his own safety rules.

Alex makes sure to cover every aspect of one topic before moving to the next.  There is no rushing through anything, and the pace is good for a newbie.  The chapters on the DVD are organized in a logical way, and once you grasp a skill, it’s easy to skip forward on the DVD to the next skill if you are ready to do so.

In the end, while pressing the eject button on the DVD player, Rick commented that he was pretty happy to have a good reference tool on the shelf next time he needed it.  I’m excited to use some of the skills I learned about sharpening and maintaining hand tools on Vera, my grub hoe.

The Summary:

This DVD would be great for:

  • Beginners, new to homesteading and/or hand tools.
  • Those who want to add to their skill set, especially sharpening and maintaining their own tools.
  • People with a wood-burning stove or fireplace.
  • People with a giant wood pile.
  • Youth clubs like 4-H or scouts.
  • Homeschoolers interested in teaching traditional skills.
  • Survivalists, backpackers, hikers, hunters or others that spend time in the woods.
  • People interested in hand tools, restoring old tools, reusing instead of buying new, and/or geeking out with their grandpa’s hand-me-down tools.
  • People who are intimidated by using and maintaining an ax.

This DVD would not be good for:

  • Our great-grandparents who grew up learning these skills.
  • People who are into “more power” or using a chainsaw for everything.
  • People who want to do things quickly instead of correctly.

Disclosure: I received a free DVD from Alex to write this review.  The thoughts and opinions expressed here are honest and my own.

The Giveaway:

In addition to being an authority on axes, Alex is a wilderness and survival expert.  He is a former backcountry ranger, firefighter, and survival guide.  He teaches classes in the Portland area, as well as offering ax sharpening services for locals.

Did I mention generous?  Alex promised to give away a copy of the DVD to one lucky reader!   

To be entered into the contest, please post a wilderness or survival question in the comments here before midnight, MST on November 21, 2012If you are new reader here at The Lazy Homesteader, or have been lurking for a while, this is your chance to come out of the woodwork.

I’ll double your chances if you ‘Like’ Old Federal Ax Co. on Facebook and share this post with your friends (tag @The Lazy Homesteader or use one of the buttons at the bottom of this post).  Come back here to leave a second comment telling me that you did so. 

I’ll announce the winner in a separate post, so make sure to subscribe to the LazyHomesteader.com/feed or follow me by email or on Facebook/Twitter by using one of the buttons on the sidebar (above, right).

You have two weeks to enter and spread the word.  Ready, GO!

The giveaway is now closed.  Thanks to Alex and Old Federal Ax Co., and congrats to the winner!

Categories: DIY, Giveaways, Hunting, Recommended Reading, Simple Living, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , | 22 Comments

No Spend October: Wrap Up

So… weeks three and four.  Let’s just say that No Spend month has been a very revealing project for me.

The month did not really go as I planned, but we still spent a lot less than we would have otherwise.

We spent $257.85 on groceries these last two weeks.  Add to that a tank of gas ($46.02), the pumpkin patch outing ($60) and favor’s for H’s birthday party ($14.44) and we spent $378.31 in two weeks.

Total spending this month so far: $624.62

My original budget was $335.  So we blew it by $289.62. 

I’m really bummed that I couldn’t manage to stick to our original budget.  I don’t know whether I just set the bar too high for us, or I just… lacked the self-control.

Besides going over out budget though, I have one major disappointment: I didn’t save anything.

WHY?

Because last month, our spending was so out of control, that all this no spending has done was allow us to catch up.  While we did blow the budget out of the water, we still spent about $700 less than we do in a typical month.  Because of No Spend Month, we’ve gotten well caught up and in a great place to rebuild that savings account and for the holidays.

Overall, the project was a success.  Next time I think I’ll set more realistic goals.  In the mean time, we’ve hit the reset button on spending, so that next time we attempt a no spend month, we can really sock that money away.

Did you attempt no spend month?  Have you saved anything?

Categories: Simple Living, Thrift | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

No Spend October: Week Two

WHEW!   I think I need someone to talk me off the edge!  This No Spend thing is hard.

While Erica is up there in Washington not spending, I’m here in Denver struggling.  For some reason, I’ve found this challenge to be much more… um, challenging than I expected it to be.  The only reason I can think of is that my habits have gotten quite relaxed and pinching pennies has become painful for me again.

The Good: Rick stuck to his budget for the hair cut, and we got into the football game for only $10 instead of the twelve I budgeted for.  We had to use cash for the game of course, so we pulled a twenty.  Rick used $7 of that for bread at the bakery.

I used card stock, scrapbook supplies and envelopes that I already had around here to assemble invitations for H’s birthday party.  I only made four of them; one for each of his grandparents and great-grandparents, and one for me to keep.  The rest of the guest list got email invitations.  Total cost was zero (well, three stamps, but I already had those).

The Bad: Originally, I had hoped for wiggle room in the grocery store budget.  Unfortunately, we ran out of toilet paper.  And, C got a diaper rash which pushed me to use disposables for a few days.  We also use disposable diapers at night, so we needed more of those too.  Yeah… that’s twenty bucks down the crapper.  Seriously?  Two-thirds of my grocery budget for poop?

Last week, I mentioned that I forgot to budget for buying chicken feed.  Because our co-op is so far away, we buy eight weeks of feed at one time.  That was $60 that we did not include in our original budget.

The Ugly: My grocery receipt contained toilet paper, diapers, milk, butter, 1 can of coconut milk, cornmeal, and cheese.  Rick got home, burst out laughing and asked where the fruit was.  I didn’t feel bad, he stole three dollars cash from the money we pulled out for the football game and spent it this week.  He won’t tell me on what, so I’m pretty sure it was candy or, more likely, a pastry.  I’m insanely jealous over that three dollars.  I’m coveting the pastry.

Oh, and then he tells me that he’s in charge of breakfast for his Friday morning meeting, and his company is buying breakfast burritos from my favorite place.  I think I hate him.

What did we spend this week?

$  50.42 on Groceries (and a damn pastry)
$  36.00 on Gas
$  60.00 on Chicken feed
$  30.00 on Rick’s hair cut
$  10.00 on Entertainment (the football game)
$186.42 total this week

Plus last week: $59.89

Total spent so far: $246.31

That leaves $88.69 for the month.  Ouch.

I am worried.  I don’t think we can make it.  I’m really debating about transferring the chicken food money from our savings account and not counting it in the month’s budget, but I don’t know if that’s cheating or not.

As it stands, we have just over half the month to get by on a quarter of the month’s budget.  If I add that sixty back in, we’re looking at 44% of the budget left for the next two and a half weeks.  My goal was to save $1000 this month, so that’s really just robbing Peter to pay Paul, right?

I’m totally open to suggestions on salvaging this project.  Thoughts?  Ideas?

Categories: Simple Living, Thrift | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

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