Category Archives: Family

Some fun with kids

Someone wanted me to post a few ideas we use at our house for fun with kids. So here are some different ideas. I like to think outside the box, and really like giving the kids something that they either have never seen or heard of before, or something that challenges me and I have fun with too. My chance to be a big kid again.

Snow time fun

Use clean food grade, or new never used spray bottles. You can get them at the dollar store for 3/$1.00. Pick up a pack of liquid food coloring. A few drops in the bottles and fill with water. Now go out and paint your white canvas of snow.  The more bottles you use the more colors you can come up with. Mix and match colors for new color combinations. Here is a home school tip. What colors can you make with what combinations of food coloring drops? Red and yellow make what? All depends on the age. Your white canvas will soon look like a bunch of hippies took over your yard with a tie-dyed commune and your snowman will look out of this world. FYI, special note, a friend whom I trust with advice and her word on issues like this, is Guardia has been showing up in snow. We had to tell our kids not to eat snow this year as a result.  It is a waterborne illness and can cause death. Additionally if you use yellow as a color in the bottle, well lets just say you HOPE the yellow snow was the food coloring if they ate it.  


Awesome indoor fun. Note, I do not recommend the food coloring. The more kids play with it, the more the coloring works into the skin. May have some smurfs running around.  We roll our wax paper and let the kids have different utensils to play with it on the table. Spoons, forks, rolling pins etc. Here is the recipe and a video on what it should look like. Also a science lesson for you homeschoolers.


Mega tinker toys

In warmer months, go to your local home improvement store. Buy 20 or so ½ inch 8 foot lengths of PCV pipe, a contractor bag ½ inch fittings, 4 way, 3 way, 90⁰ angles. Cut the pipes into 1, 2, and 4 foot lengths. If you have a PVC pipe cutter (looks like ratcheting pruners) it is easier. Now turn the kids loose. Let them build all kinds of designs and structures. Add a few tarps and you have a never ending design of forts, castles, hideouts, and caves.

Once they are tired of that, usually takes a month or two, buy a connection fitting to connect the PVC to your garden hose. Now you have water fun, or use a dremel with a super small drill bit and have a never ending unique water sprinkler activity set.


What a year!

                This week I received a congratulatory e-mil for having my site for one year. Many things have changed, evolved, grown, since that first month. While the site has been up for one year, it wasn’t until June that I began putting real content.

                During the entire month of November 2012 I had only 102 hits to our site. While I still don’t have the total numbers for November as of yet, in October it was 1,621 and November is trending to be bigger than October.  My average hits for November 2012 was 4 hits per day. Today, November is trending at 69 hits per day. Although most of my earlier hits were where I checked to see how updates looked and navigate the page.

                A year ago I was not posting regularly, had no Facebook presence, no twitter presence. I was actually opposed to Facebook but decided to use it to reach more potential readers in June of 2013. That is about the time I started to regularly publish blogs and information. I have integrated my site to post updates on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and LinkedIn each time there is a new article. You can follow, like, or + on any of these social media sites and I encourage you to like, and share. Help me reach more audience members. Adding these social media outlets has allowed me to reach people, and make new friends whom I normally might not have come across some local, some as far as Singapore, London, and Australia.

                A year ago I was working full time, trying to farm and garden, blog about it, and spend time with the family. I was spreading my time too thin across everything in my life. Today I am at home with the family, building more relationships, and focusing more time on building the farm, and educating others. I used to dread getting up each day, driving into work, and couldn’t wait for the weekends. I wake up each day happy and looking forward to “work”. When you do something you love it really isn’t work. I love teaching classes, I love expanding people’s knowledge and sharing what I have learned.

                This year I scheduled my first full day class on Homesteading. Up until 1391797_568973436507889_510742523_nthis point I had been giving smaller classes to help a small business grow. I gave my first Trade School Indy class with more planned for next year.  I also collaborated with two other presenters Jason Akers from The Self Sufficient Gardner, and Darby Simpson from Darby Simpson Consulting for my first 2 day conference on permaculture and sustainable agriculture and cofounded Midwest Sustainable Education Conference. Both of which still have openings, but are having seats filled almost each day.

                After learning about permaculture and beginning to implement at my property five years ago, I was finally able to achieve my Permaculture Design Certificate. Due to the distance, and time constraints I would have probably 001never been able to take one of these onsite at a location and especially from Geoff Lawton himself. I was able to be part of Geoff Lawton’s online PDC. I think I actually got more from the online class than I would have gotten from an onsite course. I can and have reviewed the videos on a few topics. There was the Earthworks bonus DVD, Soil DVD, Edible Forrest I and II, then all the bonus Q&A videos. I estimate the 72 hr course was really more like 120 hour.  Some skills and principals I had learned over the years, but the course put things into a different perspective, and I understood why the principals worked vs. just knowing that they worked.

                A year ago I had one aquaponic system which was an ever evolving design. Today I have 4 systems in operation. A year ago we had 8 laying hens, today we have 25. Not all reside at our suburban home however. A year ago we would have never let people tour our property. Today we have regular tours and help show people just some of the possibilities of what you can accomplish in a suburban back yard. A year ago we had three fruit trees on our 0.2 acre lot and had not gotten any fruit thus far. Today we have 8 fruit trees, numerous fruiting bushes, and vines climbing all over. We now also have access to 20 fruiting trees, berry bush patches we nurtured over the last year. We were able to can over 100 jars of homemade applesauce. We harvested peaches, pears, raspberries, blackberries, and a variety of apples this year. Normally we would have bought all this fresh fruit. We reduced our water bill significantly by using deep mulch and water collection through rain barrels.

                A year ago we were spending thousands of dollars on child care. This year we have none. A year ago 90% or more of our food came from the big box stores. Now it is less than 40%. What we don’t produce ourselves, we buy or barter with other local producers. A year ago we paid big bucks to bring dangerous chemicals into our house in the form of soaps, laundry detergent, and toothpastes etc. Today we make our own from natural alternative at a fraction of the cost and without the harsh chemicals. As a result we feel out health has improved.

                A year ago I was working on a job I hated and worked 40+ hours a week, spent a great deal of time in the car during a commute, and had not much more money in my pocket if I had not been working. After gas, child care, and other related expenses, I wasn’t really bringing home that much more money. While at home, I spend more time with my family, I can get more chores done around the house, make my own soaps, grow my own food, and make more home cooked meals. What I save from doing these activities makes up for what little money I lost by working full time.

               I have started writing for a variety of publications such as Aquaponics Survival Community, PREPARE Magazine, Brink of Freedom, and Midwest Sustainable Education Conference in addition to what I publish here.

                I think I have come a long way in just a year. This is not to brag about all that I have done. It is a way to journal, and show what you too can accomplish. This is just after one year. 2014 will be better yet. We have more classes, more growing activities, more tours, and more expansion of our microfarm. Many plants that were planted this year will be producing next year such as Kiwi, Goji berries, hops, and grapes to name a few. With new partnerships, new friends, and new connections I can reach more people, teach more people, and share more on how you too can accomplish things like this. While it is only November, think about what you want to accomplish next year. Is it to grow more of your own food? Is it to have your own back yard flock? Do you want to learn how to can some of your own food? Do you want to free yourself from harsh chemicals in your home? Do you want to free yourself from the 40 hr work week? Do you want to learn how permaculture and sustainable agriculture can help you accomplish this? Start thinking about how you can take control of your life and stop letting things and others control it for you. Attend one of the upcoming classes.  Or contact us for how we can help.

November 23 full day on homesteading

January 11-12 Sustainable Agriculture which is for both urban and rural properties.

Money Matters Moment – Laundry

I have decided to post as regularly as I can ways to cuts costs and save money. The savings can be put towards other endeavors, such as getting out of debt, buying property, investments on the farm or homestead, or just making a buck stretch further.

Laundry is something that most of us have to do regularly. Some people take the laundry to be done elsewhere, some do it themselves, and some expect you to do it for them (kids). Not at our house. Eight years old and older do their own laundry. This was the result of picking out clothes and throwing in the laundry basket for us to wash, even though it was not dirty.

Wash your own – I used to take my dress clothes to someone to launder them and press them. I liked the nice creases. I was never taught how to use an iron, and after working in a drycleaner, I learned. It is not difficult. I actually found it somewhat relaxing. I would Iron my dress pants, and dress shirts. It would save me about $40 a week. I added to this by either watching a video while ironing or listening to a podcast. There are tons of free podcasts and videos available online to extend your education. I bought a used iron ad Goodwill for $5. I made my own ironing board out of scrap lumber and material remnants from a fabric store. $40/week x 52 weeks $2,080/yr saved. You can buy a used car for that!

Buy used –  After ironing much of my dress ware I had one favorite pair of pants. Wrinkle free Dockers. You could wash and dry and there was no need to iron. I wanted a few extra pairs, but wasn’t about to pay upwards of $40 a pair. Back to good will. It took me a few visits over a month but I found 6 more pairs for $4 each and sometimes $2 each when it was color of the day. Another $200 saved.

Line dry your clothes – Back in the day no one had electric or gas clothes dryers. It was hung out on a line. Remember movies, pictures from the 40’s and 50’s. EVERYONE had a clothes line in their back yard, balcony or apartment window. When doing some energy research I found the electric dryer was one of the most power hungry appliances. It is also a huge vampire drain on electricity. That is when an appliance draws energy whether it is on or not. Additionally, it made the whole house heat up. Now that we are in summer the AC was battling the dryer and both making the electric meter spin. We now line dry all our laundry. There are several added bonuses. If I were still wearing dress clothes, line drying removes much of the wrinkles, so less ironing. The AC works less keeping the house cool. The dryer has been unplugged, and no more vampire energy drains.

Get a vent switch for the dryer – This may be contrary to the above tip, but in winter months we vent our dryer exhaust into the house. When it is too cold outside to dry clothes effectively, usually winter months, we have a leaver that allows us to vent the moist warm air into the house. In winter here, the air can be quite dry. By venting into the house we add the needed moisture, and retain the otherwise wasted heat that was vented to the outside. You can get one at most home improvement stores for around $10.

Make your own laundry soap – I was a bit skeptical about this. But it is how it was done again in the old days.  I read about this in an online form (The Survival Podcast) and decided to give it a try. The ingredients are simple and used to be hard to find until more and more people started doing this. The recipes vary and you can experiment based on family laundry needs and what is in your water. 1 bar of soap (we use naphtha), washing soda, and borax. That is it. No harsh chemicals or dyes, or fragrances. Remember I said out 11 year olds do their own laundry? It is so simple that make their own soap too. I will post more on the DIY post soon.   This recipe allows me to do a load of laundry for about $0.02/load. We only wash in cold water, and have an energy efficient washer. The soap can be used in top, front, and high efficiency washers. Two of my kids and myself have somewhat sensitive skin and we were limited to a handful of laundry soaps or our skin would break out. No ill effects since switching. We also started to notice that once we started eliminating extra chemicals from our lives our skin clear up, we could smell things much better, we seem to feel better. Here is the recipe.

Wear more than once – This may not be for everyone, but if our clothes are not dirty, and we didn’t work and sweat in them, we will wear them again. Sometimes it is a lazy day and we just hang out at the homestead, inside and take it easy. No need to do a load of laundry. When I worked in a cube all day, I sat at my desk. No need to wash something that wasn’t soiled.

Next Money Mattes Moment I will focus on the bathroom.  Lots to save there.


Getting more for less – Class scheduled

Here is a class to make your hard earned money stretch further. All the tips, techniques, and practices my family and I actually use. Demos will be available, handouts will be made available of the items we cover, the products, places to purchase, and recipes. This should be about 2 hours long. If you have missed out on the farm tours, you could hang out after, but it will not be the full 2 hour tours others have gotten, feel free to ask questions before, or after class. We will be sitting outside on our deck, and have bench seating and a picnic table. There is also room for folding chairs if you bring your own. Space is limited so it will be the first 25. There will also be home made pizza as an appetizer to demonstrate cost cutting. There is no public restroom available. Sorry. Cost is $10 per person or $15/couple, easily made up if you use the tips and techniques demonstrated. We have saved well over $700/year doing these activities. Fee free to park in the driveway, our cares will be parked elsewhere. Bonus, drawing at end of class.

We will cover just to name a few subjects/topics not everything is listed;

• Food and Grocery- bulk buying, making from scratch, coupons, discount programs, more

• Entertainment- kicking cable, discounted movies, free e-books

• Making your own-laundry soap (an 11 year old can do it), deodorant, toothpaste

• Cleaning supplies – household cleaners, eliminating harmful chemicals

• Gas- save on fuel for your car

• Utilities- gas, water, electric

• Gardening – how to get seeds for 50-75% off, how to get fruit trees 50-75% off


RSVP here

Some reasons to shop and eat local.

Once the farms a gone you are a slave to corporate America. If we do not support our local farmers and food producers you will be at the mercy of whatever the big groceries and big companies throw at you. No diversity, no heirloom vegetables, no unique species. You get the same mass produced tomatoes, chicken and they can pump and spray whatever they want on it. You are held to the ONLY thing on the market. Without local support these local food producers cannot continue and you will be left with only a few options.

Know where your food comes from. NO, your groceries do not come from Wal-Mart, or Kroger. They are more than likely shipped from across the country and sometimes the world. Know the farmer who produces your veggies, your meat. Be able to see how it is made, taste the difference. Know that within 30 miles you can have all kinds of products, fresh, not shipped, not frozen, not sprayed to preserve the freshness, not harvested weeks before they it is ready. Not in feed lots fed all kinds of hormones, antibiotics, and GMO grains saturated in chemicals.

Know how your food was raised. Have you ever wanted to know how your protein source was treated while it was growing? Wanted to know what kinds of pesticides, herbicides were used? Want to know more about your food? Ask. Go to a farmers market and ask the source. A good friend and local farmer can tell me what pastures they grazed in, if any of the stock were sick, he even posts pictures of the cows and pigs out in the pasture. Some farmers let you tour their farms and really see how things are done. Why would you ban cameras on farms if you had nothing to hide?

How far did your food have to travel? Was it down the road or across the world. With gas prices rising, food costs will increase. Local farmers drive an average of less than 50 miles to get to market. Sometimes the produce is picked that same day as you get it. How long ago did a head of lettuce from Venezuela have to be picked to get from the farm, to the sorting area, to the transportation area, through customs, into another warehouse, then to the store? My eggs latterly travel 30 feet from our coop to our kitchen. If you have never had farm fresh eggs, you are missing out. SO much better than the crap they put on the shelves at the store. I will NEVER buy a dozen white eggs from big box stores again. There is just no comparison. Sometimes they can be up to 6 month old before you get them. Mine may be 6 hours.  

Less money going to the government. The further away your food travels the more money you supply the clowns in the clown house (our governments). Think of the property tax on the land, the gas to harvest on the mega farms, the tax on shipping it here, the tax on customs, the tax on imports, the tax on warehousing, the tax on the utilities on warehousing, the tax on transportation to the store, the tax on the store location, the taxes for the utilities on the store, the taxes to the employees in the transportation activities, the taxes on the employees on the farm, the taxes on the employees in the warehouse and I am sure I am missing some. Yes all of this creates jobs, but it also drive up your costs. For a local farmer, things are much simpler. His land, his utilities, and his gas to get it to you. So why is buying local more expensive? There are no government subsidies, and it is the true cost of food. All the taxes from buying at the big box stores goes to supplement the mega farms. But the difference is, the clowns in the clown house get their cut too.

Flavor and freshness. Picked the same day or fresh to your door. You cannot compare the difference from big box food to local sourced. No additives, preservatives, flavor enhancers. Real food, and real simple.  

If you cannot raise your own food, support the local farmers, artesian food crafts. I have not always been of this opinion. It wasn’t until I started going regularly to the farmers markets and meeting my local food producers. I learned how proud they are of their products and they should be. I through parmesan cheese came out of the green tube shaker at the store. I met a man from Italy, who crafted parmesan cheese and the flavor was simply amazing. Eating fresh eggs from my back yard. Being able to walk out my back door and pick anything and eat right off the bush. No washing needed, no worries. My kids can walk out and know they can eat anything in the garden without worries, and they actually fight over the fruits and veggies. Why? Because they are packed FULL of flavor. They have not been picked weeks earlier and then sat on a store shelf.

Last year I bought a ½ side of beef for around $750. We got steaks, ribs, roasts, hamburger, and even got organ meat as a treat for our dog. It averaged around $2 a lb. You cannot even get the cheap burger for that now. Steaks are around $13 a lb. We have been eating on this meat for almost a year and still going. I know the farmer, I know his practices, he talked me through how he raised his cows. Another local farmer invited me out to his farm to see how he raises his pigs, cows and chickens. I know my family is not getting chemical laden meats, and there is nothing “hidden” from the process. My wife met the butcher, as it was an older husband and wife who had been butchering all their lives. She got to custom cut, and process all our meat.

Every time I speak to a local food producer I learn something new. My wife tells me I have what she calls “the gift of gab” aka I can talk to anyone about anything. This is also why she always plans to spend hours at the market even though we only want a few things. I learn about new herbs, that not all grass is the same for livestock, I learn that what one market is out of, another has a surplus. I learn who has the best berries, who makes an amazing sour dough bread. I learn that after speaking to the artisan bread maker, he invited me back to their bakery to see how it is all made, and offered up a sourdough starter for free. I learn about raw milk, the benefits, the benefits of lacto fermenting foods, and that you can go get you kitchen knives professionally sharpened.

If you have never been to a farmers market, go check one out. They are an amazing place to learn. Remember the vendors are there to sell a product. But they are usually more than happy to tell you all you want to know about your purchase or potential purchase. Bring cash, but some do take cards. They must also either pass on the fees of accepting cards or eat the fees. Cash is always easier and better. Markets are usually on the weekends, some are held during the week.

How we kicked cable to the curb

Several months ago the wife and I were looking at ways to save more, get out of debt faster, and put a big chunk down on a farm. We started looking at our bills. One that came up was cable. We both had our shows we liked to watch, we had a DVR, we had internet, we would rent movies online occasionally, it was a convenience. The DVR was really nice that we were not tied to a certain time to watch our shows, and we could cut out the commercials. We were also paying almost $180/mo for an hour or two a day, and maybe a few hours on the weekend. It was so expensive because we had various TV’s to be connected, since we had no digital TV’s in the house it was the only way to get a signal. We couldn’t justify buying new TV’s when the current ones worked.

I heard on a few podcasts I listened to about Roku, digital TV, streaming TV and the like. We were Amazon Prime members. You get free shipping and many items, and I like to watch for their daily deals. They had a special on a Roku, and we decided to give it a try before cutting cable. 30 days. We didn’t last 30 days. After one weekend cable was gone. How does it all work?

We are able to watch digital signals on our analog TV with the aid of a digital antenna and a digital converter. The converters are about $50. The antenna can go from $10-hundreds and you can select indoor or out. We bought a powered digital indoor antenna for about $30. Most of the programs we watched were on local channels. Here in Indianapolis we were able to get 30 or so channels free after buying the hardware. Total investment, $80.

Now the Roku. We had to keep cable internet due to work requirements, and Roku uses your WIFI connection to get on to the internet. With our Amazon Prime $75/yr we had access to something like 500,000 movies and TV shows for free, then a ton more that were a pay per view. While not all of the shows we were currently watching were on Amazon Prime we discovered a bunch more that we really liked, and never watched when they were on. In addition to Amazon Prime there are literally hundreds of other ways to get movies, TV shows and music. The kids will stream Pandora stations while doing chores or reading. Because the Roku is portable we can take it to whatever room we are in. We do not need a separate connection for each TV.

Out littlest one is learning Spanish by watching Dora. One of the older girls likes to tune into congressional channel and see what is going on that day/time in Washington. There is the chef Keith Snow from Harvest eating teaching you how to eat seasonally and prepare meals from things you grow in your garden. There is a Smithsonian channel, old westerns channel, sci-fi channel. Granted some of the shows are not the latest and greatest. But some of the older shows are great. And better free.

So the Roku only costs $50 for the basic model. And after that no subscription. You do not need an Amazon account but it is a bonus if you already have one. You can also use Netflix, or Hulu. Both have monthly subscriptions.
We went from a $180/mo bill to $30. In two months of savings we paid for the hardware, and had money left over to cover the occasional $3.99 movie rental. Granted we already had some of the hardware (WIFI and a cable modem) but those two you can get for under $100.

Granted this post isn’t about farming, organic food production, but with the savings in both time (not watching as much TV) and money we are able to do more things to our property, and get a bigger patch of land. Making the dollar stretch is something many people are being faced with. Rising food prices, rising fuel costs, shrinking wages and income, becoming more self sufficient is becoming more mainstream.

Frugal moment turns to family fun

Some say frugal is a bad word. Some also use the term cheap, tightwad, penny pincher, miser etc. You get the idea. I wasn’t always this way. When I was single I could buy and do as I pleased. I made more money than I knew what to do with.

Fast forward, four kids, a mortgage, bills etc. Money dries up pretty fast.
Not too long ago we stopped going out to the movies when they did away with the matinee. It just became too expensive to go to a move, and get snacks. My wife and I went a while back (several years actually) and at $9.75/ticket $8 lg popcorn, and $5 each for large drinks and we were out almost $40.
Today as a treat I wanted to take the kiddos out to a movie. No way we would ever set foot in the regular cinema. We went to the second run or the $1 movie. Tuesdays in our area are family specials, and not only are movies only $1 families of 3 or more get discounted, and there is a food discount for kids. They have been working hard and doing chores to help out, and it was a reward.
We get to the theater and the booth tells us that there is a delay due to a mechanical problem and they may be able to sell ticket if the projector gets working. OK, no big deal, I always get to the movies 30 min early to make sure I get snakes, and seated where I want way before the movie.
While we were waiting, I took out my smart phone and looked at the movies through Amazon Prime. We kicked cable to the curb a while ago. Will blog on that later. Funny thing, some of the movies that were at the second run were already on Amazon Prime. We could watch the same move for $3.99 in the comfort of our home. We can pause it if someone has to have a potty break, if the kids fall asleep we get the movie for 24-48 hours and they can watch it in the morning. Of if they choose watch it several times over. If we missed what someone said, we can rewind it. Two or three years ago my wife got me an air pop popcorn maker, and we buy the same salt and seasonings from the bulk restaurant store. We have left over candy from, name your holiday, Easter, valentine’s day, Halloween etc.
So sitting in the lobby of the movies looking at the snack board at a price of $5 per kids pack, $5 for tickets, and then a large popcorn for me $9 and a large drink $7.50 I ask the kids. How about we go home and have family movie night. We watch on big screen, you all can get bean bag chairs, and you can pick the candy or snack, then whatever flavor popcorn you want. All of them were in total favor of that. Here is the bonus, they found a FREE movie from Amazon prime they all wanted to watch.
What I originally thought of a treat going out and spending money for entertainment, it was more of a treat to have microwave smores, kettle corn air popped popcorn, a cold drink, and all the kids to enjoy a movie in their PJ’s on our own couch. A reward doesn’t have to be the money you spend, but the quality of the time you spend together.
If the wife ever lets me (I doubt that will EVER happen) I will have to post the video of all of us playing music videos on YouTube until late into the night. Kids heard “classics” they have never heard of, the adults acted like kids. Something that started off as showing the kids a song we used to listen to, became one of the best nights of our summer. If you can imagine the scene from Practical magic where the whole family was singing “Lime in the Coconut” that was all of us latterly, like 5 times over the night. From the oldest to the baby. We all took turns on selecting the next song. The 11 year old girls thought it was hilarious, and learned a few dance moves such as The Running man, The lawnmower, the sprinkler (although the boy thought you needed to use water in the mouth for accuracy), the worm and the list goes on. Yes we could go to an amusement park, we could go watch a movie but that was a great night and I will cherish it and it was FREE. We may have to have another one soon.

I guess in the end, how you value something really doesn’t need to have a price tag on it. Some things, the best things, are free. You just have to look for those moments.