Homesteaders, Off-gridders and Preppers- Welcome!

Welcome to Off Grid and Free My Path to the Wilderness

Aerial View of our Homestead on Hockley Lake

Our Remote Off-Grid Wilderness Homestead

 

To homesteaders, off-gridders and preppers everywhere- Greetings from the Canadian wilderness! Welcome to Off Grid and Free My Path to the Wilderness!

Imagine if you can, living so remote that access is only by float plane. You won’t see another person for 6 months at a time.

Twin Otter landing on Hockley Lake

Twin Otter Landing at Hockley Lake

No daily mail delivery, no commute to a mundane 9 to 5 job, no easy access to malls and supermarkets, and none of civilization’s chaos and noise. Nothing but the silence of the forest encompasses you. Continue reading

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The Fall Garden – A Key Component to Vegetable Self-Sufficiency

The fall garden is one that is still producing after the first fall frosts and is a sign of a dedicated, committed and skilled gardener. While keeping a garden productive well into fall is a key component to vegetable self-sufficiency, it doesn’t happen magically. Planning is essential for a successful fall garden. Knowing when to plant what as well as knowing which vegetables can take exposure to frost and cool temperatures is the secret to success. Let’s talk about the fall garden.

Fall Seedlings Waiting For a Home

Fall Seedlings Waiting For a Home

Estimating Fall Planting Dates

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Bountiful Harvests Grown on Small Plots

Recently, our publisher put up an inspiring post about an urban garden in Detroit on our book’s marketing page. That post garnered over 250,000 likes and loves and wonderful comments from so many people. As you might imagine, it also brought out a comparative few “experts” who questioned the bountiful harvests grown on small plots.

Day's Harvest

Day’s Harvest

Imagine our shock and dismay when a few wizards even told us it was impossible to grow our year’s worth of vegetables in our relatively small garden, something we’ve been doing for over 4 decades. Continue reading

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Ten Non-electric Small Appliances for the Off-Grid Homestead Kitchen

For the off-grid homestead kitchen with limited power options, there are non-electric versions of various small appliances available to make kitchen duties easier. If, like us, you are solar powered with ample power, the following non-electric utensils are still invaluable. In most cases they perform as well as their electric counterparts. However, if you’re still plugged into the electric grid, these ten non-electric small appliances for the off-grid homestead kitchen would be of interest to you as well.

Non-Electric Food Processor

Non-Electric Food Processor

Non-Electric Food Processor

This gizmo has sharp blades that are operated by a handle that is cranked around in a circular motion. I’ve used it to chop up our horseradish roots as well as to puree cooked pumpkin from our garden prior to making pies, breads or muffins. It’s perfect for the small amounts of pumpkin needed for a recipe.

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Home Grown Rhubarb Juice for More Self-Reliance

While home grown orange juice is out of the question for us self-reliant homesteaders in most of North America, home grown rhubarb juice isn’t. In our book, The Self-Sufficient Backyard: For the Independent Homesteader, we write about rhubarb and rhubarb juice and the role it plays in our plan for self-reliance. Chilled rhubarb juice mixed in equal parts with ginger ale (homemade or store bought), makes a punch that is a perfect thirst quencher when you come in from sweating in the garden. Let’s talk home grown rhubarb juice for more self-reliance.

Trimmed Rhubarb

Trimmed Rhubarb

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Plant Belgian Endive Now for January Salad Greens

For those of us seeking independence from the supermarket, winter salad greens are a challenge. But there’s a little known vegetable that fills the void – Belgian endive otherwise known as Witloof chicory. So plant Belgian endive now for January salad greens.

Planting the Roots to Force

Planting the Roots to Force

What is Witloof Chicory?

Witloof chicory is an unusual garden vegetable. Grown all summer long as if it were a carrot, the roots are harvested in the fall then forced indoors in winter whenever salad greens are needed. The shoots the roots produce are called chicons. They have a slightly bitter taste but when mixed with other “fresh” foods from the root cellar such as red cabbage, shredded carrots and onions along with some microgreens from the window sill and perhaps some fresh sprouts you’ve made, you have the fixings for a yummy mid-winter salad. Continue reading

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The Homestead Herb Garden

Our previous two homesteads wouldn’t have been complete without the homestead herb garden and neither would our new homestead here in Nova Scotia. Because herbs don’t require much space, they make good candidates for containers and can even be grown indoors on sunny windowsills by folks living in apartments. Herbs can be grown in the vegetable garden or they can have their own dedicated space, the herb garden, which is what we’ve always done.

Herbs Ready for Drying

Herbs Ready for Drying

Growing Herbs

Many herbs originated in Mediterranean areas where the soils are often not the greatest in terms of fertility. Therefore herbs can thrive in soils where other plants may struggle. But the one thing most herbs do require is well drained soil. If you have heavy, wet soil, consider adding sand to lighten the soil, adding organic matter in the form of compost or peat moss and/or establishing a raised bed for your herb garden.
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Rhubarb for the Self-Reliant Garden

Rhubarb, sometimes referred to as pie plant, has a place in every self-reliant garden especially for us northern gardeners. This hardy perennial is a boon for any of us in cold climates as it’s one of the first things to revive in spring assuring us the long winter is finally over. We write about rhubarb for the self-reliant garden and how it figures into our plan to be as self-sufficient as possible in our book The Self-Sufficient Backyard: For the Independent Homesteader.

Our Rhubarb Plant

Our Rhubarb Plant

Why Grow Rhubarb

Historically rhubarb was one of many plants used as a spring tonic by early settlers. After a monotonous winter diet of dried beans, cured meats and whatever root vegetables could be stored, there’s no doubt the first rhubarb stalks were a welcome treat. As a source of various vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K, C, potassium and manganese, it’s use as a spring tonic shouldn’t be surprising since the winter fare, with its lack of variety had the potential to be nutritionally deficient over the long term. Rhubarb is also high in fiber making it a natural laxative to relieve constipation. Continue reading

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Time to Get the Garden Started

With winter-like weather still in the forecast, garden season seems so far away. But it’s actually time to get the garden started unless you plan to buy seedlings from a nursery center. Seeds for vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, celery, cabbage and other Cole crops must be planted indoors so they have a jump start before they are transplanted out in the garden. For us, now is the time to get the garden started.

Transplants in Containers

Transplants in Containers

Why Start Your Own Garden

There are many reasons for starting your own transplants. Cost is one. A packet of seeds is cheap especially when you consider how many seeds it contains. Often a packet has enough seeds to last for several growing seasons if properly stored. Compare this to buying a pack of six plants that costs considerably more than the packet with dozens of seeds in it. Continue reading

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The Off-Grid Dream – the Realities

Going off-grid is your dream, but how do you proceed? Where do you begin? First you need to come to grips with the realities of going off-grid. We’ve lived the off-grid dream for 41 years beginning in northern Maine at our first homestead, then in the bush of northern Saskatchewan where we built an off-grid homestead so remote the only way in or out was by float plane and now here in Nova Scotia where we’re building our third and final homestead. Our experience has shown that to be successful anyone considering severing the electrical cord needs to give careful thought to the following questions. Let’s discuss the off-grid dream – the realities.

Kitchen Work by Kerosene Lantern

Kitchen Work by Kerosene Lantern

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Fall Garden Care

One would think that with the onset of fall frosts, cooler weather and blustery winds, garden chores would have come to an end. But in reality, the success of next year’s harvest begins now. Fall is the time to replenish the soil with organic matter and certain nutrients that have been removed by plants grown in the summer months. Now is the time for fall garden care!

Begin your fall garden care by removing any and all plant debris from the garden so it doesn’t harbor insects or diseases through the winter. Relegate all organic matter to the compost pile unless it’s diseased in which case it should be burned. The last thing you want to do is perpetuate and spread any diseases by composting infected materials then spreading the finished product all over the garden in the future.

Buckwheat Green Manure

Buckwheat Green Manure

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Tomato Propagation for a Winter Harvest

As you can imagine, tomatoes are a staple in our household. We grow a lot of them and process them into many different products. We can tomato quarters, stewed tomatoes, make plain sauce, pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce and tomatoes are the prime ingredient in V-6 juice. Let’s chat about tomato propagation for a winter harvest.

We grow Red Alert cherry, Bellstar and Amish paste, an heirloom variety called Brandywine and a new one called Kalinka We save seed from all except the cherry tomatoes which are a hybrid.

Tomato Cuttings

Tomato Cuttings

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Freezer Slaw for Winter Salads

For those of us wishing to live as self-sufficiently as possible, homegrown winter salads are a challenge. However, if you have access to a freezer, preserving garden cabbage as freezer slaw helps quell the desire for a crunchy, crisp salad in the depth of winter. Here’s how we make freezer slaw for winter salads.

Slaw Ready to Package for Freezer

Slaw Ready to Package for Freezer

Slaw From the Freezer – Really?

We’ve always grown lots of cabbages, as many as 12 to 15 heads of storage type cabbage each season, and we’re only a household of 2. It’s a versatile vegetable which can be used in numerous soups including Cabbage Sausage Soup, cooked side dishes such as baked cabbage, entrees such as New England Boiled Dinner or cabbage rolls, not to mention salads such as various versions of cole slaw. It can also be preserved for long term storage by several methods: fermenting it into sauerkraut, blanching it for the freezer and/or by root cellaring it. Continue reading

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Look at What You’ve Accomplished!

Every time we tap into the daily news, it seems we are greeted with more chaos and turmoil. Today, we’d like to share some upbeat, happy news. You folks who have supported us with your encouragement and book purchases have our heartfelt gratitude. Johanna and I wanted you to see what you’ve accomplished. You have provided electric lights to a remote medical clinic in Uganda! The following is a write up:

Crew Assembling Solar Array

Crew Assembling Solar Array

“The Gayaza Health Center II in central Uganda is not a clinic serving a huge number of people (some of the clinics may serve 20,000 or more people), but it is in an extremely impoverished area 13 kilometers from the nearest grid and currently with 0 hours of electricity. The staff use their mobile phone flashlights and/or kerosene in the clinic, which is only open 5 days/week for 10 hours/day. With electrification it will be open 7 days a week for 24 hours/day. The clinic is extremely remote and serves a dispersed catchment area of 5,473 people (as per the last census in 2017). They currently treat 350 patients every week (200 of them are children) for a variety of ailments including malaria, diarrhea and fever.”

Crew Roof Mounting Solar Array

Crew Roof Mounting Solar Array

Something Most Take for Granted

Something Most Take for Granted

When Johanna and I were asked what we wanted on the sign, we asked that our supporters be acknowledged in some way. Unfortunately, the text would have created a bill board instead of a small concise sign, so, although not written on the sign, Johanna and I could not have done this without you.

Hospital Staff

Hospital Staff

This is public acknowledgement that you folks are the real heroes here. All we did was pass money on from you to this worthy project. From our perspective, what better way to celebrate over 40 years of being off grid than by lighting up a community health center far removed from the grid. Every person who purchased our book made a contribution to this and we sincerely hope you take pride in the accomplishment. Over time, we will light up more medical clinics that are in desperate need of simple lights. Well done folks! Thank you!

Until next time, keep the dream alive! We wish you a great day!

Ron and Johanna

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Make the Most of Your Garden’s Bounty

It’s the height of the growing season. The garden is yielding a bounty of fresh produce each day. How can you possibly make use of it all? That’s the dilemma for beginning and experienced gardeners alike. How does one make the most of your garden’s bounty?

Basket of Fresh Picked Vegetables

Basket of Fresh Picked Vegetables

The Evolution of the Process

I began gardening as a teenager with my dad being my tutor. At the time, our garden was pretty basic: peas, corn, beans, broccoli, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots and zucchini. Nothing so “exotic” as Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, leeks or Belgian endive. Once I began homesteading in my late 20’s, I expanded my garden horizons and began growing a greater variety of vegetables. At the same time I made it my mission to find ways to utilize what I grew. After all why go to the trouble and work if the vegetables and fruits of your labor go unused and are wasted because of a lack of knowledge regarding their preparation, lack of inspiration on ways to use them or techniques to store them longer term.
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Thoughts Regarding The Coronavirus

This will be one of those non-negotiable, we won’t budge on our philosophy type posts. Johanna and I are a bit frustrated! We felt it might be of value to some of you to discuss our thoughts regarding the coronavirus that has plagued the world recently. The first thing is we hope everybody remained safe and healthy and other than some scares and inconvenience, came out of this unscathed.

My Supply of the Building Block of Life

My Supply of the Building Block of Life

Our Philosophy

If you’ve been with us for awhile, you know we are not doomsday preppers. We are simple, down to earth people who wish to be more self-reliant. By that very nature, it means we are better prepared than most since we provide much of our food, energy, water etc ourselves. We give no conscious thought to preparing for a specific calamity. In more generalized terms, we like that feeling of independence associated with growing our own wholesome foods and not having to worry about power outages yet if there are disruptions to either, we are relatively unaffected which is a nice side bonus.
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Quilting, Weaving and Other Worthwhile Homestead Pursuits

We recently received a comment from a reader of our book The Self-Sufficient Backyard: For the Independent Homesteader who asked how I do quilting and weaving on the homestead and whether my fabric and yarn are purchased from elsewhere. This post is dedicated to answering questions regarding quilting, weaving and other worthwhile homestead pursuits.

Home Made Hand Stitched Quilt

Home Made Hand Stitched Quilt

Quilting

Traditionally quilts were made from whatever scraps were kicking around be they pieces of intact fabric salvaged from worn out or outgrown garments or leftovers after cutting out new garments. In other words, they were the result of what we would term recycling or repurposing. I made my first few quilts this way using what my mom had in her scrap bag. Continue reading

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What Does It Mean to Live Off-Grid?

Bear with us for a minute and this will all make sense in the end. As kids, (only a few short years ago), we were entertained by some great TV. One of the many shows we watched was the dynamic duo, Batman and Robin. The show presents a perplexing problem, one we’ve wrestled with for years with no easy answer. Were Batman and Robin living off grid? Stay tuned to this Bat Channel for the definitive answer! So, what does it mean to live off-grid?

Nova Scotia Homestead

Nova Scotia Homestead

For each of us doing so, it means slightly different things and while each of us off gridders have come up with our own solutions to the challenges life off-grid presents, the one underlying theme is this as defined by Wikipedia:

Off-the-grid homes are autonomous; they do not rely on municipal water supply, sewer, natural gas, electrical power grid, or similar utility services. Continue reading

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A First Step To Self-Reliance – Plant a Garden

You’ve decided to become more self-reliant, but don’t know where to begin. With 40 years of homesteading and self-reliance behind us, we’d suggest you plant a garden as your first step. This is especially important in this new virus era when some food items are being rationed or when income security is in question. Let’s take the first step to self-reliance by planting a garden.

This is What it's All About

This is What it’s All About

First Step To Self-Reliance

If your diet consists of frozen pizzas, microwave burritos, cheese doodles and fruit roll ups, planting a garden won’t help you in your pursuit of self-reliance unless you’re willing to change your eating habits. But if you’re looking to free yourself from reliance on supermarket produce and commercially prepared canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, then a garden is a viable, important first step toward your ultimate goal. Continue reading

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Our New Book – The Self-Sufficient Backyard: For the Independent Homesteader

Johanna and I are thrilled to announce that our new book The Self-Sufficient Backyard: For the Independent Homesteader is available for purchase in both ebook format and/or printed copy. Here is the link to the webpage: https://self-sufficient-backyard.com/my-book/

The Self-Sufficient Backyard: For the Independent Homesteader

The Self-Sufficient Backyard: For the Independent Homesteader

We are not aware of any book that has been published that is as comprehensive in its coverage of self-reliant topics. The following is the table of contents.

The Self-Sufficient Backyard: For the Independent Homesteader Table of Contents:

Chapter 1 – 40 Years Homesteading

      Where it all Began …………………………………………..

      The Beginning – The First Homestead ………………

      Time for a Change – A Move to the Wilderness …

      The Final Frontier – The Last Homestead …………

Chapter 2 – The Homestead Plan ………………………….

      More Questions ………………………………………………

      The Sketch ……………………………………………………..

      Sketch Details …………………………………………………

Chapter 3 – Site Selection …………………………………….. Continue reading

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Garden Record Keeping Ensures Success

Garden record keeping is part of ensuring a successful garden. The mundane task may seem trivial, unnecessary, and of no value but the truth is once you get into the habit of recording vital bits of information, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without this valuable wealth of data. We touched on the topic in our previous post but let’s delve into garden record keeping in more detail.

Garden Notes

Garden Notes

Why Keep Records?

The biggest reason to keep records is so you can make a comparison against previous years. You can compare frost dates in spring and fall, at a glance see what you planted in what location and look for patterns, be they weather patterns of rainfall (or the lack of it), or patterns of poor production. If you notice any vegetable grown in a particular spot does poorly no matter what the vegetable is, this likely means the soil in that location needs improvement. Good record keeping will show if the garden is behind or on schedule as compared to previous years and whether or not yields are up or down. Finally records can serve as a reminder it’s time to do certain duties such as get transplants started indoors or get the fall spinach in the ground before it’s too late to harvest a crop. Continue reading

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