Sunday, December 24, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - Am I Sure This Life Is For Me?

I am the odd ball of my family that is for sure, they look at me like I am crazy one minute and then I get that look of aha! the next minute. I always knew I was different because I liked stuff that never interested anyone else in the family.

No, I am not into the "country" look or any of that, I actually like the modern look. I do not want a log cabin or dead animals hanging on the walls either. I want closed windows and air conditioning when its extremely hot.

There are a few things that I want and they are : 

1- free power

2- free water

3- food growing in my own yard

People are always saying "sure have yourself a garden then get real, no one gets free power or water." But what they do not understand is I want food growing all year round, 365 days and I want to capture it at its peak and preserve it in my kitchen, in jars for the most part.

Life is crazy as it is and I am wanting to take it a step further, free or a cheap as I can get it, as in $1 packs of seeds.

But there is so much to learn, I am living and learning this lifestyle. I want to know more and more so I buy the books, one at a time and I read it, sometimes I reread it for it to soak up in this thick head.

Get the knowledge and then..... DO it!

So.... I try.

When I was growing up my mom had a greenhouse and she raised and sold houseplants, she passed away and every place we lived after that my dad had a garden in the back yard, till the day he died he had a garden for vegetables and fruits, flowers in the front of the house. I come from a long line of green thumbs. But for the life of me I did not understand the work involved in the greenhouse. Open and vent daily, close before dark. What kind of heat? Well solar for me in the form of drums filled with water, someone told me to use an electric heater, no! If I want to pay for power I would just buy the food and not grow it. 

The greenhouse, maybe I am not cut out for growing in a greenhouse, not yet anyways. But I have not gave up just yet.

 A root cellar? This is what I do need to keep my home canned food cool in the summertime. A plus is storage space too, but who do I get to dig one, someone with a backhoe? How much does those cost to rent or hire? how many blocks do I need? 

Or Should I forget about all the other wants and go for the well first? I am sure they will hit water near the surface, this are is know to flood with the Springtime rains.Not every year but I have seen a couple here since I have been living in this area. I have names of several in the area but have yet to get the courage up to ask " how much?" I am afraid it will cost so much I will just give up right then and there when I hear the cost.

Although I am still on the grid I am learning and doing somethings that I want to try to make money, if one day I need to barter, I make all types of jams and jellies already but I am reading up on tapping trees for syrup and I am about to attempt to make soap.

I am learning about mushrooms and Tony picked a mess of turkey tails yesterday and they are in the dehydrator as I write this, for turkey tail mushroom tea, did you know they are supposed to help cure cancer? Yes I know these are edible mushrooms, so does Tony.

I am also learning about which weeds I can eat and which I cannot, some say do not eat poke weed but I was raised cooking and eating poke weed, we call it poke salad, its all in how you cook it, now eating it raw would make you sick but no one does that! As for the berries of poke weed its used for ink.

If I can manage I would love Chickens for the eggs, fertilizer and meat. When? 

I need equipment, I mean equipment that costs. A tractor and a backhoe would be awesome.

There is more but I reckon I need to sit down with pen and paper and write down what needs to be done here and if I will do it, money is always the problem, everything costs so much.

For many this life would not fit well with them because they depend on others to grow them food or kill the animals for the meat, for me it does fit but I am still not sure if I can make this work, especially at my age and for the most part all alone.

2017 was not a good year for me and the homestead, a few times I was broken and gave up, something in me always got back up again. I have missed a whole month, December, around here because I caught the flu, The homestead does not care, it wants to be tended to and that is something else I need to think about, what if I get sick, who will feed the animals and tend the plants? 

So in 2018 I will see and ask  myself "Can I do this?" or "Do I really want to?"

I often have sleeping dreams of no land and just traveling with a silver bullet, dogs on back of the truck...... Who know where life will lead me.

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - Gifts For Those Going Off Grid

When I say off grid I do not mean I live so far back into the woods I have to pump in sunlight, I mean I live 10 minutes from town and I will still get off the grid one day, sooner than later. 

Seeing as I have most things already and I really do not want a bunch of gifts that would call for power but there are some gifts that a homesteader can use or would love to have. Especially if they are like me and learning as I go before I jump all the way off the grid, plus I want to be more self sufficient and make or gather what I can for free.

Learning is the key, its hard to learn a lesson of no heat in the winter or no food after the garden dies.

So, there are some things that would be appreciated by people like me that do not live like others.

1 - Learn to be a sugar maker

I call it making Maple syrup but others call it sugar making. First you need to read about this amazing way of getting free maple syrup! Go from there and buy the needed items to tap the trees.

2 - Vegetable seeds

Its hard at first because you do not have seed to grow your food, after the first or second year things are easier because we learn how to harvest and save seed for the next growing season. All seed are appreciated!

3 - Soap Making

I like to use every single part of an animal, while I am more a vegetarian some in the family eat meat.  And while there is tallow ( grease) that comes from ALL animals, I need to do something with it and making soap is the best way to utilize the tallow. 

Learning is not hard but sometimes the little things I do not know help, plus a mold would be great so that I maybe can sell the soap if I am in need of cash or for a trade/ barter.

4 - Trees!

Yes I said trees. There is nothing like planting a tree and getting fruits and nuts right out of your own yard or field. While I prefer nuts for the protein some would rather have fruit.

5 - Anything Warm

While most people have a wood burning heater or fireplace some of us are not quiet there yet ( I just learned a valuable lesson last weekend, click here to read :  Off the grid ) So I suggest stocking up on warm clothes and long johns.

Well there you go!  A small list of things a homesteader would love as gifts that most can afford.

The list is long of things one would love to have on the homestead but I think it would be rude to ask for a backhoe or tractor :)

By Andria Perry
Photo By Andria Perry

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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - Off The Grid For 2 Days

I was off the power grid for a couple days, Absolutely no power and only a few batteries that did die.

We got an unexpected snow storm, where some predicted an inch and a melt off by evening, we got a foot out here in the woods and most of it is still on the ground. I woke to snow last Friday and it snowed all day.

We lost power early Friday morning and the temps stayed cold enough all day for the snow to continuously fall, the night was down into the 20`s and we had no power and no heat and still snowing.

I am thankful God gave me some sense, I did have plenty of blankets and comforters so sleeping was not a problem but I was lacking because I was not prepared to face a night without any type of heat, Me! Miss get off the grid and live free! Preparing for the worst. 

I have 4 solar powered lights so we were not in the dark and I used all the candles to warm one area, But.......

I do have a fireplace "but" it had not been checked out by a professional, "But" when it got cold enough, on Saturday morning and still no answer about when I would have power back, Tony looked it over, gave it the okay and we built a fire in the fireplace. It warmed Us and the house.

Around 2:45 Saturday evening, with the temps barely at 40 degrees the power came back on. I think God heard me up in heaven screaming "thank you!"

So what now?

Actually I am glad this happened because no matter how prepared I am for other things I was not prepared for a power outage in the winter because of a freak snow storm, if we get anything its usually in February.

The plan :

Tony will coat the inside of this fireplace to make sure there are no cracks or I will replace the unit. Finish cutting down the tree that was struck by lightening and stack the wood in the shed where it stays dry. I have three acres of woods and I can clean up what had fallen and use this for heat. This will be the number one back up while I am still on the grid.

I will buy a small propane tank and a two burner heater, This will be number two back up while I am still on the grid. 

The Plan For 2018 :

I have had enough of being on the power grid, Calling and begging them when it shuts down to restore it just for us to have heat. I will buy some type of solar power system in the year of 2018 for the house and something more for the greenhouse, plants cannot live like this either. 

I have to live and learn sometimes, Kind of felt Gods finger poking me in the shoulder, telling me get busy girl cause you are not there yet.

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - Win Some Lose Some

It had been over 10 days since I wrote about my journey and in 10 days a lot can happen or not much.

Last week the cold set in for my part of the state of Alabama, Warm days and cold nights. With that being said I am learning as I go where the greenhouse is concerned.

I did the barrels as I understood and things were looking good till the night of the first hard freeze at 29 degrees . What I did not know about was the humidity in the greenhouse and that it will freeze the plants, or blister their leaves. I went down to check on the plants and I seen many of the dead! I was in shock so I did what I would usually do and research the problem. 

I found out that I need to let my heated greenhouse air out daily, even if it is cold outside. The heat needs to "dry" out so there is no condensation inside.

With that being learned I am now at the greenhouse daily, twice a day to be exact.

But it, the freezing of the condensation did not kill all the plants, some are beginning to sprout back out, I also find it amazing I can open the greenhouse daily, even when cold and it not lose all of its heat needed for the night. 

Progress Around The Homestead :

I got a load of pots taken down to the greenhouse and a couple bags of the compost/ manure/ potting soil that was stored under the deck.

I filled six of the recycled cottage cheese plastic containers with potting soil and brought them back to the house with me. I planted three of those with bell pepper seed and three with tomato seed. I can watch them better in my house and I can take them out later to live in the greenhouse.

The dogs are now in part of the backyard and free to run freely but under the guidance of the electric fence. Roscoe is not happy but Harley is. I am hoping this coming week we can get the rest of the back yard finished with the electric fencing so they will have more room and Roscoe will be happy.

Sunday I took a few hours and removed more of the brush, I think one more days work and I will have that section cleared, I would like the entire backyard cleaned before I put the rest of the electric fence up. I am sure Roscoe will be happier when he can see the back door. 

From the Garden :

All I have growing is the greens and that is all I picked.

The Stockpile : 

I did pick greens a few times. After I washed them I would freeze them till I got enough to home can. I got six pints this time and maybe the next time I will filled the canner full with seven pints.

Learning :

I am always learning and do research about how to live as free as possible. I want to know as many tricks of th trade as possible.

I recycle items like butter bowls and mushroom carton, even mayo and peanut butter jars, to reuse growing plants in or storing seeds.

I discovered one valuable thing to know, to Treat AFIB with vitamin C, I began to give Tony vitamin C and he had not had another episode of AFIB since. I have always thought that todays illnesses were related to vitamin deficiency.

Life is strange but I have always know that God has provided us with everything we need, we just have to figure it out and apply it to life.

Now that I am gardening, maybe year round, now that I have learned to pressure can foods for a shelf life, now that I know I can build anything I need, Its time to look at solar power, even if the first step is small. We all have to start somewhere. 

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - Working In The Winter

November 16, 2017

When Winter comes around most people think about gardening time being over completely and they buy what fresh produce they want at the grocery store but when the goal is to be off the grid there is no grocery store and you keep growing food year round. 

It has taken me much longer that I have anticipated to get the green house together and with things living and growing. 

Progress Around The Homestead :

When I got the white plastic barrels home I still had to paint them and I knew it would take a lot of spray paint and at $1 per can.  I could estimate that I would be spending to much for such a small amount of paint, I also looked at the quarts of black paint and once again $9 seems liked to much plus it was enamel so I opted for a gallon of black paint, while is still is costly at $18 per gallon I have so much left over for other up coming projects.

 I finally got a day off, Wednesday, and I used this day to work on the greenhouse needs only, since I knew colder weather is headed in next week I wanted to get a heat source in place.

First I got the barrels painted, I gave them two coats, and got them inside and filled with water. I placed three in the back so that the morning sun hits those and one by the front so the evening sun hits that one.

Next I placed the table I will use right now inside and I potted up my first greenhouse project, Confederate Jasmine cuttings. This will be a way to make money in the Spring. I already have Confederate Roses rooted and they have new leaves. 

From the Garden / Greenhouse :

I have not harvested anything this past week but a mess of greens for a meal. But I can see the Swiss chard / Beets growing and I am excited because this is my first time growing these. 

In the new greenhouse I have a baby tomato and one turned red already, soon more will be re-potted so they will grow better.

The Stockpile :

I was lucky to get a couple of cabbages from Aldi grocery store for .69 each, I sliced them up and froze those, I will have cabbage when I want it, I also bought 20 pounds of Irish potatoes for .19 per pounds and that is cheap taters around here! I plan to put them into jars, just potatoes and also in soup. I have ate all the soup stock and now I need to take a day and make more.

Learning :

I am at it again with the books, as I get older I need the books, the real in my hand paper books, so I bought how to deal with diabetes off grid. Now I know I can cure myself, the Doctor even told me how, with food. I am often thinking about, if I don`t know my numbers how would I deal with it?  I am not so sure there is an answer for that question. So now I am learning more about vitamins and what I need to eat to keep up those vitamin in my system so that my blood sugar will stay level.

I am also waiting on another DIY homestead book. What can I say? I like to build things :)

Do you have plans for your homestead this Winter? 

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry

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Monday, November 13, 2017

8 Tips To Save Money On Heat This Winter

Its that time of the year again when we have to think about turning the heat on and what most of us hate to see, the rising cost of keeping warm. But there are a few things we can do that will help the blow of opening that bill and seeing the amount owed each month.

No matter how we heat out homes, electric or gas these tips will help keep you warmer.

1 - Insulation is the best way to keep the hot in and the cold out.  If you have an attic or basement make sure both or either are insulated. 

The heat goes up! and we do not want it going into a space that is not used.

Make sure that crawl space holes, under the house, are covered with something, a board or piece of tin to keep the cold air out, cold circulation under the house will make the floors very cold and could cause pipes to freeze and burst

2-  Stop air coming from windows.

Check all your windows and make sure that they still have all the putty in them, check around the entire window frame and make sure the calk is still in place. If its a no, then this is a simple job anyone can do. Buy a tube of calk for windows and doors, with a utility knife cit the top at a slanted angle so that as you apply it, its going where you want it with minimal lost.

If you live in an older home do not hesitate to put up plastic over the windows to keep the heat in!

3- Close those Plug In`s and dryer vents

Have you ever put a candle by a plug in? Do that and see is air flow is coming in, if so then buy a pack of safety plug in covers, that will stop that air.

Check the dryer vent pipe, does it have an opening? If so buy a can of the stuff, its a foam spray insulation, use it minimally because it tends to swell and that should stop that air.

4 - Use the heat in the ceiling

Push the heat in the ceiling back down with a ceiling fan, all heat rises so flip the setting to counter clockwise to push the heat back down, you will fell the difference.

5- Use free heat!

In the day open the blind and curtains. The natural heat from the sun will warm your house more than you imagine. Using the south side of your home as a natural heater by simply opening the curtains and blinds and allow nature to give back, free.

7 - Dress for Winter

I am sure that most people don`t have to be told to wear clothes to be warm, but there are a few items that some may not own and should. 

If you stay at home invest in several pairs of sweat pants, these are extra thick and comfortable, stay warmer and invest in the tops also.

When you go outside and you love your jeans but still get cold fast, buy a few pairs of insulated underwear, or as we call them " long Johns" these will help keep the cold off your skin and the heat in. The best part is they will fit under your pants and not look bulky.

Most people stopped wearing hats but I am one that will wear a hat, not so much inside but outside? its a yes. Nowadays we can look pretty with hats or beenies, they come in so many styles and colors. From casual to dressy but the hats and beenies will keep you warmer because you lose most of the body heat through the head. 

8 - Sleeping 

Most people know that when the temps are just right we tend to sleep better and that is usually when the air is cooler.

Sleep like a baby by turning down the nighttime heat and pile on the blankets and quilts. You can add to if you get cold or toss back when to hot but you will find that just right warmth and sleep well. 

I am sure everyone has the common sense to :

Keep the doors closed 

Have your heating device serviced

Close fireplace dampers when not in use

Wrap the electric water heater with an insulating blanket

Use glass screen doors if possible

I am sure these tips will help save you money on heating, stay warm and enjoy the coming winter with a cheaper heating bill.

Andria Perry

Photos by Andria Perry

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - A Bad Case Of.....

November  9, 2017

After a week of cold we got the normal temperatures back that is the 70`s as highs and the upper 50`s at night. My kind of weather! But at this time of the year we bounce back and forth with the cold and hot, like a slow smooth tango.

 I know I cannot live in Alabama and hope for tropical weather so I will have to go with whatever mother nature brings, as old man Winter comes a knocking.

Progress  Around the Homestead :

Saturday was a free day so we went down to the place to buy a few of the plastic drums and see what else this old guy has sitting around we might use around here. I could not believe that the place was closed on a Saturday around 2 pm! If I were a betting woman I bet it had something to do with college football.

When Monday came around I made sure that I went by there but first I also made sure I only took $50, I would get what I needed for $50 or go elsewhere. Of coarse this guy wanted more but he let go of $10 and gave me four barrels for the $50.

 I will paint them black, place them inside the greenhouse, fill with water. As the days gets hot they will absorb heat and at night they will radiate the heat out into the space to keep it warm.

From The Garden : 

I have kale. I have turnip greens and turnips. 

I have Swiss Chard (aka beets) Other than that I have nothing. 

But..... I have tomato plants in the greenhouse ready to be re-potted into large containers, maybe have some ripe tomatoes in January? 

The Stockpile :

This week I did not shop for much of nothing. But I did pick a huge sack of kale and I home canned four pints, not much but a start for re-stocking. 

Learning :

I have ordered yet another book, this one is specifically on foraging in my area of the USA.

The more I walk around my woods the more I learn, Sunday I noticed several types of wild mushrooms. 

The red mushroom I know is a big no no, the photo does not do this red mushroom justice, it is bright.

Next I seen clusters of mushrooms, they all had a hint of purple on top.

I am not sure why one was upturned but I got the underside of it.

And last I seen one brown mushroom, after I had left the camera back at the house.

I am certain that all of these are NOT edible but its a learning experience each and every time I study a mushroom. 


I also received my new book on foraging and I am disappointed at how little this book shows. I need a book that shows what I can eat here in Alabama, not Northeast! But that is how we all get stuck buying the books, they NEVER tell us where they are foraging. Another live and learn experience. 

By Andria Perry
Photos by Andria Perry