Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom week 3 - Repair or Replace?

Frugality was considered a virtue during the Depression of the 1930's and WW2, yet today it's seen as an absurd waste of time and effort because we live in a time of plenty. But the idea that recycling, upcycling and reusing things is passé is frankly one of the many things wrong with society. Long gone are the days of darning socks, putting new heels and soles on shoes, or turning flour sacks into clothing. Most of us just wouldn't even consider it today. It's so easy to pop down to walmart and buy the things we want in the latest colours. In less than a century we've forgotten or dismissed thrifty ways of living as being old fashioned and miserly. But as a homesteader I'd like you to consider how much you could save in time, dollars and fuel if you fix up a few things at home instead of driving to town every time you need something. 

DIY Supplies A well stocked tool box or cupboard with hand tools, washers, screws and nails in various sizes, repair tape, oil, clamps and wire will save you time looking for hardware and trips to the store. Keep track of the things you use commonly and make sure to have a small supply on hand. Include household repair items too, glasses repair kit if you wear glasses and a sewing kit. We keep extra matches and a few tea light candles in ours plus a bar of hard sunlight soap. A pencil and measuring tape can also be very useful. 

Buttons How many times have you tossed away a shirt because the cuffs frayed or you lost a button? If you look inside the lower side seam you'll often find two shirt buttons sewn to the label for replacing buttons you lose. If you're not lucky enough to have them, and there are no exact matches in your button jar, then the best thing to do is put all the matching buttons at the top of the shirt and sew a same sized but non matching one to the bottom button or buttons. It'll be tucked in and nobody will see it. If your long sleeved shirt has a good collar but frayed wrists you can make it into a short sleeved shirt. Once both the neck and wrists are both worn it can be remade into an apron, painting shirt for children, dusting rags or cleaning rags. Don't forget to remove and keep the buttons in a jar once it's beyond use. 

Handles Brooms, garden tools, snow shovels, they all have handles and sticks that can break. Sometimes a repair is as simple as placing a screw in to keep pieces together or putting a jubilee clip over. Oh, there's my British-ness coming out again. Wikipedia says this "Jubilee Clip is a circular metal band or strip combined with a worm gear fixed to one end. It is designed to hold a soft, pliable hose onto a rigid circular pipe, or sometimes a solid spigot, of smaller diameter.

Jubilee Clips are generally made of stainless steel or galvanised or electro-plated steel. Rotating the screw has the effect of changing the diameter of the circle formed by the band. Jubilee Clips are available in a range of sizes (diameters). Larger-diameter Jubilee Clips tend to have wider bands.

In many countries, Jubilee Clips tend to be known almost exclusively by their brand name, but elsewhere (where the brand is not so well known for example), they are known by generic names such as worm drive hose clip or hose clamp or hose clip

Thank you Wikipedia.

I love these adjustable clips, they work well repairing hoses and all sorts of things. They're very handy to have around in a variety of sizes. 

Having replacement wooden handles that fit the shafts of your tools is also a good idea if your tools are of mid to high quality. They're generally forged and meant to last many years with occasional replacement of handles, regular sharpening, and oiling of the metal parts. Spending more on tools initially or buying good quality used tools will save you money in the long run. 

Sewing and Darning Learning the fine art of darning with a needle and yarn will extend the life of your good wool socks. Darning isn't simply sewing the hole edges together, that would create a seam that can give you blisters. Darning is more like weaving to fill in the hole in the sock. You should have on hand some sock yarn (usually a wool/nylon blend) a darning needle and a darning mushroom. If you don't have one, a hard ball or old lightbulb will work in a pinch to work over. I used an orange once but that's another story. There's lots of info on how to do this on the internet including videos. 

Sewing and patching knees and elbows can extend the life of your outer clothes, even of it means your favourite jeans now become work pants. If you're looking for work clothes for homesteading you can even buy used clothing that fits well and reinforce the knees and pockets to make them durable. It's not about looks when homesteading, it's about practicality and durability. The chickens don't care what you look like, they just care if you've got food for them. 

Footwear Shoes, sandals and particularly boots are crucial for homesteaders. They protect your feet from the elements and sharp objects. Sandals provide a cool environment for hot summer feet while protecting you from rocks. I also love my crocs but experience has taught me that these comfy foam shoes are fine for the house and greenhouse but lousy for regular farm use because it's simply so easy to step on something sharp and have it pass right through into your foot. Yes, this is the voice of experience. Pulling a bail out of your foot and sandal at the same time is much harder than you'd think, especially if it's essentially nailed the shoe tightly to your foot. Can we say OUCH?!? Podiatrists, trainers and many doctors will emphasize the importance of foot health. Investing in long lasting quality shoes and rubber boots will help prevent fatigue, plantar fasciitis, and keep you more comfortable. I would recommend buying good footwear on sale at the end of the season or during promotions. Get yourself properly fitted if you can too. 

Buckets Pails, scoops and buckets are used every day at our farm. From carrying water to collecting eggs, we use a variety of shapes and sizes to complete our daily tasks. Our buckets include store bought livestock pails in colourful plastic and some flexible rubber, to recycled 2, 3 and 5 gallon pails. We can get those at local restaurants for cheap or free and although they are broken more easily than livestock pails, the price is right. Livestock pails are often made of more UV resistant plastic than food pails which spend most of their time indoors. Buckets can often have the handles replaced by a piece of stiff wire if they break. If the handle bracket itself breaks you can drill 2 holes through the more rigid upper part of the bucket and put a rope handle through, leaving some slack and securely tying off the ends.  Holes and cracks can be patched with a fibre reinforced tape such as duct tape inside and out. Broken buckets get used for planters, dog water, compost pails if they don't leak, buckets with leaks can still hold rocks and dry goods or large veggies from the garden, it really depends. Buckets with a broken top can be cut down to make feed dishes. Use your imagination! At the end of their life we put them out for recycling. 

Food During WW2 rationing was essential to feed the troops and the home population. Wasting food simply would not be tolerated, or wise. Peelings were thin slivers, scraps were fed to pigs, and people realized that everyone was going to have to work together to get through from farmers to consumers. The top two ways were not wasting food in the first place and growing their own gardens to supplement what they could buy. Food isn't something homesteaders worry about all the time. We get into habits of preserving and growing food, but if you had to support yourself for 40 days without a trip to the store could you do it? What would you miss? What would you run short of? Careful menu planning and not wasting food could save the planet millions of tonnes of agricultural waste and pollution each year as well as feeding more hungry people. Something to think about isn't it?

So there you have it. Frugality. Bred into me from my Scottish ancestors and adapted for 2017. That's my Wednesday Wisdom for this week. Happy homesteading!

Pancake Day and Giving up Clutter

Although we're not Catholic we still celebrate the English tradition of Pancake Day by making crepes for breakfast served with lemon juice and sugar. It's a fun tradition carried over from my childhood that originally marked the beginning of the 40 days of Lent. This was a time for giving up rich foods like meat, sugar and eggs so a Pancake Day feast effectively used up your supplies before the austere Lenten period began. But there's a new idea I'm trying out this year. 

40 Bags

Many Catholics give something up for lent, perhaps alcohol or chocolate, generally something that's considered indulgent or bad for you. If you follow me on Twitter you'll have noticed my #40Bags post from yesterday and maybe wondered what I'm up to now. The plan is that everyday I'll do some de-cluttering and donate or give away a bag of things we no longer use or need. One bag, regardless of size, each day for 40 days. After I'm done my 40 bags I'm going to do the Spring cleaning. 

I think it's a great idea, and I really need the kick start so today is day one for us. One huge bag to give away I hope.  I think the first week will be easy and it'll get progressively harder as time goes on but I'm committed and as long as it's one bag per day the size doesn't matter.  I'll probably be using a combination of donation bin, Facebook free ads and the Salvation Army store to re-home my stuff and I hope they find new homes where they can be useful. I am going to do a general de-cluttering and then go room by room, closet by closet as the end approaches. I'll keep you posted. Is this something you'd consider doing with me? 

But first breakfast, then to the Dr because I've got a sore tooth that needs some antibiotics. 

Have a great day and good luck with your decluttering. 


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Homestead Wisdom Wednesday

A new feature of my blog as we enter the busier time of year is going to be Homestead Wisdom Wednesday. I want to share ways to stretch your budget, do things more efficiently, be more environmentally sound and learn easy crafts to help you be more self reliant. We will also show some of Steve's inventions from time to time. It also allows me to write ahead of time so there's always something new to read on Wednesdays, in addition to regular posts. I really hope you find useful ideas and gain inspiration for your own projects. I'm open to sharing your ideas too so send me your comments.

Today's idea is a simple one. Do you own a swiffer or similar sweeper? They're great for essentially dusting hardwood and other solid floor surfaces as well as the tops of cupboards and ceiling fans. If your floors just need a quick dusting or a spill clean up it's hardly worth breaking out the mop and bucket. The disposable cloths that are sold with sweepers are a good money making venture for the companies selling them but you don't have to buy them. You can make your own by either crocheting or knitting cotton covers, or if you have the kind with the rubber cloth holders that you just poke the cloth into, you can sew square cloths from scrap material such as old t-shirts and jeans. Cloths can all be laundered after use and are reusable many times. If you can make a dishcloth, you can make these. You can also use these cloths with a wet type sweeper too, just remember that laminate doesn't like being soaked, damp mop only. 

So the next time you see a forlorn sweeper at a garage sale, think of the possibilities. There are lots of ideas for these on Pinterest. 

To make a crochet or knitted sweeper cloth, measure the length and width of your sweeper and add 4 (or 6 inches if it's long) so you make a very long narrow cloth.  As your crocheting and knitting will vary from mine, just work to make the dimensions you need. Once your cloth is complete, fold either 2 (or 3) inches back on itself and sew along the two long sides to create a pocket. Repeat on the opposite side. Now you have a rectangle with two pockets that fits your sweeper. An alternate method is to make a pad the size of your sweeper, make two smaller rectangles for the top pieces, and sew along the 3 outside edges to create the pockets. It's entirely your preference. 

Having a half dozen or more on hand would be very useful. You could even colour code them for washing, scrubbing, dusting etc. and consider using the coarse scrubby cotton (available at craft stores) to make a pad for very dirty floors like tile entryways and mud rooms. Like all cotton cloths, clean well and store them dry. 

Happy Wednesday!