Category Archives: Preparedness

Become a Weather Spotter

I love weather and always have.  Courtney found out that our local National Weather Service office holds Spotter Training classes, and so I attended one last April.  After a couple hours of lecture and slide shows, you can become a certified storm spotter, too.

Especially useful for those in tornado prone areas, you’ll learn about the important characteristics of a storm that has the potential to generate a tornado.  This is helpful to identify danger, and just as useful in knowing when not to be concerned.  Much anxiety can be eliminated with this knowledge.  This information is important to the homesteader not only for  personal safety but also for your plants and animals.  Knowing conditions are ripe for hail, you can cover sensitive plants and ensure animals have a roof to get under.

Here’s the link to my local NWS spotter training schedule:

With my training, I was able to identify and report a wall cloud with a rotating updraft last spring.  I couldn’t quite call it a funnel cloud, but I called the local NWS office anyways.  As a spotter, you are provided with a direct line to the meteorologist desk.  They issued a tornado warning as a result of my call.  The cloud never did worsen or touch down, thankfully.

I highly recommend this free class to anyone with an interest in the weather.  Navigate to the National Weather Service webpage for your local area to see if they offer these classes, too.

Are you a spotter, too?  Or do you have a great story?  Leave a comment, I’d love to hear it.

Thanks, Robert.



Young Living Essential Oils

Has anyone been wondering what the heck we’ve been up to? It has been quite some time since we put a post up here. Our homestead has kept us very busy. We have also been working on a new income source.

Courtney purchased a Young Living Essential Oil Starter Kit last spring so that we could make our own bug sprays. We quickly discovered that the oils can do so much more, from relaxation to supporting normal healing, from promoting healthy sleep to revitalizing healthy skin.  We have a saying in this house “there’s an oil for that…”

Young Living has adopted a business model that empowers their customers to be the sales force by offering a commissions to share about products they love. Sharing is a natural result when you love the oils.  Courtney has been doing this for the last 6 months or so and it helps provide some extra money for our family. For those willing to work hard and do what it takes, it can be very rewarding.  Hearing your friends say “I’ve had the best sleep of my life” is extremely gratifying.

If you are looking for a home based business opportunity with great income potential, check out the Young Living essential oils tab at the top menu bar. Courtney has provided some details on how to get started.

If you are just interested in essential oils and don’t want to be bothered by the business side of things, that’s OK. There is no continuing obligation after the first purchase.

We would also love to hear from you if you have questions or would like to know more, or even if you already use essential oils.


Back up heat sources

In October 2011 our area was hit by a very large and early snowstorm.  This wet snow stuck to everything and was particularly destructive because most of the trees had still not lost all their leaves.  Branches fell on power lines causing widespread power outages (for three or more days in some instances), but luckily we were spared.

This event got me thinking about heating our home in the winter if we had no electricity for our forced air furnace.  The main motivator was that our new baby girl was less than two months old.  We purchased a kero-sun heater from Lowe’s and a few spare fuel cans.  The thing works great and I have enough fuel for several days of back up heating.

Now, I’ve one-upped myself.  I found an old cast iron wood stove on Craigslist.  It is a Vermont Castings Vigilant which was assembled and test fired on September 25, 1980.  This is the same exact stove that my father had in our house growing up and so I was very comfortable in this purchase.  A quick call to my uncle revealed that he also had the same one and said that this stove was the best one on the market for a very long time.

I’ve read online that there are lots of people that have used the Vigilant for their primary heat source for 30 years.  The owner of this stove had it sitting in their garage for the last ten years and considered it a nuisance, thought it smelled bad and was glad to part with it for the very low price of $180.  For reference, new stoves today are in the $1500 to $3000 range.

Can’t wait to install it and test it out.

Thanks, Robert.

Deciding on a Grain Mill

We are in the market for a grain mill.  We can’t wait to join the thousands hundreds dozens of other folks who spent countless hours preparing their own flour.  Now you know us, we don’t want just any ol’  electric mill that you can buy at Walmart and that will grind your flour in mere seconds.  We want one that you have to crank yourself.  And we want one that won’t break.  That appears to be a tall order.

So we’ve done some internet searching and consulted our favorite bloggers.  At least those who like to do things the slow way old fashioned way.  I think we have settled on a Country Living Grain Mill.  Everywhere we look, we only find satisfied customers.  We were also considering the Wonder Junior Deluxe mill, but the reviews were mixed.  One reviewer said it took her 1 1/2 hours to grind wheat fine enough to use for bread, which required double grinding.  That seems like a really long time to me.  The cost is about half that of the Country Living mill so we are tempted to try it.

And talk about getting the horse before the wagon, we’ve already purchased a supply of wheat, corn and oatmeal.

Thanks, Courtney.

Top 10 Reasons Why I Love Dehydrated Fruits and Veggies

While pregnant this summer, I said no thank you to canning.  Not because I don’t love puttin’ up stuff, but because I couldn’t stand to see my ankles get any more swollen.  So we resorted to drying, and by we, I mean Robert.  He dried  everything.   Sometimes fruit and vegetables that I was planning on using for dinner would disappear out of the crisper.  I would march into Robert’s office, sniff the air, see his guilty look and know instantly that in the dehydrator hiding under his desk was my bell pepper and the last of the strawberries.  At the time I thought he was really going overboard.  But I owe him an apology (don’t tell him)  because I use them constantly.

And here’s the top 10 reasons why I love dehydrated fruits and veggies:

10.  They take up less room than the fresh or canned

9.  I get to make cute jar labels (post coming soon)

8.  Zombies probably would prefer fresh fruit so we’re safe in the event of…

7.  Another use for Tattler reusable lids

6.  Every soup I make gets a handful of zucchini = healthy

5.  I don’t have to send Robert to the store for one jalapeno

4.  Technically I am still eating local and in season

3.  Way cheaper to use a dried tomato than to buy one in the dead of winter

2.  Even after being dried and rehydrated organic, CSA-grown tomatoes still taste better than any tomato you can buy at the store, winter or summer

1.  Robert did all the work

Thanks, Courtney


Courtney and I have been using Swagbucks for the last six months or so.  I’m writing now to say that it works.  It is a simple search engine where you are randomly awarded points for doing internet searches with their search engine.  Courtney and I both set the main Swagbucks webpage as our homepage.  It really doesn’t take any extra time once you get used to the way it works.

The points do add up slowly, but there are faster ways to do it by taking advantage of sporadic one-time deals.  For example, I used their link to do credit checks on Courtney and  I a few months ago and won 1000 points.  We also signed up for Netflix using the Swagbucks interface after we cancelled our Directv  and won 800 points.

What does this have to do with homesteading, you may be wondering?  Once we got up to 5000 points, I cashed them in for a $50 Amazon gift card.  With that card we purchased our very own copy of The Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman, among other books.  You can use that Amazon gift card for whatever other items/books you may need on your homestead. There are many, many other things your can purchase in their store rather than an Amazon gift card, too.

If this has motivated you to try it out, then please also use us as a referral (click here to do this) because we would get a few points for referrals.  Our Swag Name is hishershomestdg.  Or feel free to contact us and we can help you.

Thanks, Robert.

The Art of Garage Sale Bargain Shopping

I have always been a bargain shopper.  I have also always loved going to garage sales and now thrift stores too.  I like walking through a mall as much as the next girl, don’t get me wrong.  But I really love to find bargains and treasures.  I recently realized though that not everyone was raised to appreciate the art of dumpster diving as some may think of it.  In fact when sharing my love of garage sales with a fellow believer she mentioned that some people even turn their nose up at garage sale shopping.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  Some people find it beneath themselves to dig through others discarded belongings, not me though.  And I really think they just don’t know how to garage sale and thrift store shop.  So here’s my list of garage sale how to’s.

1.  Get up early

2.  Have plenty of cash on hand, at least $100 in case you find some furniture or something big.

3.  Look up garage sales on craigslist or I suppose you could use the newspaper.  I always find enough on craigslist, plus you can search for specialty items like canning jars.

4.  Have a good map or navigation system or both.

5.  Write down a few more sales than you will think you have time for.  Once you get going you may not want to stop.  At least you will be prepared.  If the ad writes directions, jot them down, they are trying to tell you their house is hard to find.

6.  Map out a somewhat logical path so you can save gas.

7.  Don’t just go to the one closest to your house first.   I always go to the one that has what I am looking for first.  And then I start my loop there.

8.  Arrive at the starting time, don’t be rude, but don’t let the good stuff get away.  Serious collectors are out there before you even think about getting up.  If they see a listing that has items they want they will show up 1 hour before it opens to get first pick.

9.  Never pass up a deal.

10.  This is not the grocery store so don’t go with a list and don’t feel you have to stick to a list.

11.  Let the seller name the price first.If you offer first you could be offering 10x what they would have said.  I am always surprised when I would have paid $3 for something and they say 25 cent.

12.  Only offer less if you are serious about the item and don’t be rude.  Some people never offer less than the asking price, especially among small items.  Big ticket items are another story.

13.  If you are even somewhat interested in an item always ask how much they want for something, it will help you build a price catalog in your head.  And you never know they could be asking so little that you have to buy it.

14.  If the price is too high for you, then never feel obligated to buy even though you showed interest by asking the price.  Just walk away.

15.  Don’t pay more than half or what you could buy the item for new.  In fact most items should be much, much less than half of their original price.

16.  Heading to a sale at the end of their day can also be an advantage.  At that point people are willing to just give you stuff so they don’t have to take it to the thrift stores.

17.  Finish up at a local thrift store and collect more bargains.  The prices will be much higher but there are still deals to be found.

18.  Always keep in mind that you can resell the item on craigslist or Ebay.  I made a business out of this in grad school.  Sometimes I come across items that I don’t really need but are too good to pass up.  Evaluate if you can make a decent profit for your time and then go for it.  For example:  I came across an older model Bernina Sewing Machine for $75 at a sale recently.  These can easily fetch $800 on ebay.  That would have been a perfect resell item, but someone else beat me to it.  There is a risk that it might be broken or a unwanted model so be careful.

This sounds like it takes all day but really only a couple of early Saturday morning hours.  We are early birds and like getting up and out of the house before the town wakes up.  Give it a try and if you have fun, hey you have a new hobby.  If not then we understand it’s not for everyone, plus that leaves more canning jars for me to discover.

By the way when Robert and I met he had never been to a garage sale.  I think he thought they were icky.  He would just stand there and watch me dig through boxes and find arm fulls of treasures.  It wasn’t until I bought a bunch of Polly Pocket toys for 25 cents each and sold them on ebay for $40 a piece that he got the bug.  Now he’s an old pro.  He favors the bundle approach.  I often overhear him saying “How about all this for $10?”  He makes me so proud.

Thanks,  Courtney

More Mercury

As I’ve said before, buy on the dip days.  On 6/27 silver dipped below 34 again and so I bought a few more Mercury Dimes.

I wanted to share another piece of advice for the beginners.  I’ve  updated the chart 2011-06 Junk Silver Calculator that I posted the last time I talked about silver.  The addition is a column to estimate the face multiple.  Often the price in a coin shop will be discussed as “X times face” or something like that.  It behooves you to know what that means so that you know if you are getting a good deal or now.  I kept a printed copy in my back pocket for reference.

Before I left the house, I confirmed that the close of trading in New York was around $33.50 per ounce.  I knew that 90% silver should be sold at 24.23 times face value.  Some quick math will tell you exactly how many coins you should expect for the amount of cash you want to pay.

With a little experience, I’m sure this will become second nature.

Thanks, Robert.

Jericho will get you motivated

Robert checked out a TV series from our local library this week.  It is called Jericho and it aired on CBS, I think in 2006 or 2007.  It is a series about life in a small town after a nuclear attack.  It is very captivating and really makes you think about things.  Now let’s not get all crazy here I did have a hard time imagining a nuclear attack in my lifetime (Robert on the other hand has no problem imagining this scenerio).  But it did make me think about an extended period of time without power, maybe caused by a natural forces.

It also brought to mind how you would acquire food, clean water and medicine without an infrastructure in place.  It has made me think twice about the things in my pantry and the lack of important things in my pantry.  We try not to eat a lot of canned foods so I only have a few cans in my pantry.  And if power were out and we couldn’t get to a store then this would be a problem.  I may need to rethink storing some cases of canned food, like the kind you get at Costco.

With each DVD, we watch 3 episodes in a row because we are addicted and I think of new things to worry about.  Not really, but it has caused much discussion in our house.   If nothing else it is just good entertainment that we think you will like.  Check it out.

Thanks, Courtney.


What are you doing about savings and investment these days?  I’ve been interested in stock markets and other investments since high school when I was entering in mock investment competitions.  Much of what Courtney and I write on this blog has to do with skills from days gone by – and so is this one.  We’re building a savings account the old fashioned way, with old fashioned money.

I have been watching gold and silver for quite some time, but I own very little of it.  I’ve known that the best ways to buy are on the dip days.  Well, yesterday was one and so I headed in to the coin shop after work and bought all of the mercury dimes they had in the display case.  With a few Roosevelts to top it all off, I left with 40 dimes in total in exchange for a one hundred dollar bill. And boy do I feel better about possessing physical silver rather than fiat paper money.

I adapted a small spreadsheet I found online to analyze prices so I was confident I was getting a good deal.  I have never done this before.  As I do this more, I’ll be able to look at certain coins and know whether or not they’re a deal.  For now, though, I needed my cheat sheet which I adapted from the chart at this site.  Here it is: 2011-05 Junk Silver Calculator

Mercury dimes were produced between 1916 and 1946.  I chose them for their beauty, history and due to my personal aversion to President Franklin Roosevelt.  The Roosevelt dimes minted between 1947 and 1965 are just fine in terms of silver content and value.  I ended up with one Barber dime from 1901 as well.  Once I got home and had time to analyze the stash, I realized that a few of them were slightly rare, carrying twice the collector value of the others, so all in all it was a very worthwhile experience.

The term junk silver refers to currency with dates prior to 1965.  That was the year silver was no longer used in the coins.  It is rare, but you can bump into these coins in circulation today;  I recently found a silver canadian dime in a jar of spare change.  Referring to the chart above, you’ll see the silver content listed is different with each coin type.  The dimes I bought are all 90% silver content.

Thanks, Robert.