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 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 →
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
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 →
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
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 →
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.
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.
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.
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 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 →
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
“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
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.
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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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
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. Continue reading →
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
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. Continue reading →
We recently received a comment from a reader of our book The Self-Sufficient Backyard: For the Independent Homesteaderwho 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
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 →
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
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 →
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
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 →
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.
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 →
Mapping out your vegetable garden so you have a plan on paper once planting time arrives is a key component to a successful growing season. So is detailed note taking. I have a sketch of every garden I’ve ever planted, about 45 different drawings at last count, and I’ve never regretted the small effort it took to commit the plan to paper. As well, I am meticulous in writing down varieties, dates, first harvest, frost and any other pertinent details. So let’s talk about mapping out a vegetable garden.
Why a Paper Sketch?
Having a layout on paper ensures you have allocated room for every item you wish to grow. It ensures you don’t forget something or run out of room at planting time. It can also save time during the hectic spring rush of planting because you aren’t wasting time figuring out where everything will go. Continue reading →
With 40 years of off-grid homesteading under our belts, we can sincerely say that one of the keys to self-reliance is a successful vegetable garden. A well thought out, well planned garden can save time, effort and aggravation come spring and summer so why not spend some time this winter while the cold north winds are howling planning your vegetable garden for this coming season.
Hockley Lake Garden
Factors to Consider
If you’re a seasoned gardener, begin by looking back and assessing the previous year’s garden. This is where record keeping can be of real value. Refer to your notes to see what worked and what didn’t. What would you like to do differently? Would you like to try a new technique – maybe trying to grow cukes or melons vertically for instance? Perhaps you want to try a new variety of something or maybe even a completely new vegetable you’ve never grown before such as Witloof chicory or mache. Did you have a shortfall of any item and if so is the shortfall consistent from year to year? It’s normal in any given year to have an over abundance of an item while the next year it may not do as well but if you consistently run short of an item you may want to plant more this year. On the other hand, do you consistently have too much of something. So much that it goes to waste. If so, reducing the amount planted may be called for.Continue reading →
We’ve used mulches on our gardens from day one. Mulching is a key component to a happy garden in our opinion. There are a number of benefits to mulching. Let’s delve deeper into mulches and mulching.
Chipping Brush with Proper Safety Gear
Benefits of Mulching
It helps control weeds, keeps valuable moisture in the ground where it is best utilized by the plants, makes for a tidy garden, helps prevent soil compaction in the walkways, adds valuable organic matter to the soil helping to improve soil structure when that organic matter breaks down, adds nutritive value, keeps soil from splattering on your plants during rains and it keeps your strawberry fruits, squash, what have you, resting on clean bedding instead of directly on the soil. It also helps to maintain a more even soil temperature. Continue reading →
Dry beans, a homesteader’s staple should be in everyone’s larder whether they are a homesteader, prepper, city dweller or rural resident. As long as they are properly stored in a cool, dry location, they keep indefinitely without the need for refrigeration or freezing. They are versatile as they can be used in soups, stews, casseroles, chili and of course the proverbial pot of baked beans. As a bonus, they are nutritional powerhouses being exceptionally high in fiber, high in protein and cholesterol free (until an animal fat such as salt pork or bacon is added). And finally if you grow a garden, dry beans are easily raised requiring little attention until harvest time.
Living on the ocean is wonderful but fog and dampness are typical throughout the growing season. It’s not unusual to hear water dripping off the roof eave over night from high moisture in the air. And along with that dampness come diseases. Diseases such as potato blight and scab, both of which are fungal in nature. Let me tell you how we almost killed our orchard and half of our potatoes recently.
Sad Looking Apple Leaf
Assessing Plant Health
Part of gardening is being vigilant with plant health. A daily walk through the orchard and garden can tell the gardener a lot about the health and vigor of the plants. Disease can spread pretty quick so it’s always nice to watch for the first signs of a problem. Those problems might be insects as well. Here are some things we look for: discoloration of the leaves, ants and other obvious insects such as aphids, potato bugs and cabbage worms plus we assess the leaf structure looking for holes or curling. Continue reading →
Establishing an orchard is a big investment not only in money but in time and effort as well. At our new Nova Scotia homestead, getting an orchard underway was a priority last spring and continued this spring. Selecting what varieties to plant can be overwhelming especially when it come to apples as there are so many from which to choose. Factors we considered when selecting varieties included plant hardiness, the growing zone in which we reside, disease resistance, our intended end use of any fruit we harvest as well as our desire to have some Heirloom varieties in our orchard. See our post of Jan 29, 2018, Order Now for Spring Planting for details on all these factors.
Mulched Orchard Trees Just Coming to Life
We live in Canadian growing zone 5b, so to increase our chances of success, we tried to select varieties that are hardy to zone 5 or less. Because we want to keep our spray program to a minimum, disease resistance, particularly in regards to fireblight, was a major consideration so many of the varieties we selected take this into account. We also wanted the apple season to extend as long as possible by selecting a few “summer” apple varieties, “fall” apples and “winter” apples. Summer apples are supposed to ripen the end of August/beginning of September but are not long term keepers. Winter apples ripen in October, are meant to be stored for months and may even need time in storage to reach peak flavor. Fall apples ripen somewhere in between and have varying long term storage characteristics. Continue reading →
All contents on this site are my opinions and experiences. I express and share my thoughts freely and assume no legal liability for this information. All readers are responsible to do their own due diligence in regards to the contents.