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The Intrepid Homestead

One Family's journey toward a simpler, sustainable, prepared homestead and life

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Ten essential gear items for homesteading

 

Homesteading is gear/tool intensive. Below are some items we feel are indispensable to our homesteading operation. These are in no particular order, except the first.

1. Tractor

It was a couple years into homesteading before we were able to get a tractor. Now, we can’t imagine homesteading without one. A tractor saves our bacon on a routine basis. They are amazingly labor-saving. We use a tractor for everything from moving material, digging holes, plowing snow, driveway maintenance, moving heavy items, etc, etc. There are few jobs that a tractor cannot make better. If you don’t own one, get one sooner than later.

2. Chains

This often overlooked tool is essential at our homestead. Combined with a tractor or ATV, the right chains can accomplish many tasks. Useful for securing and lifting loads with a tractor, dragging tree and logs, ripping brush and trees out of the ground… the list goes on and on. Chains are expensive but worth their weight in silver!

3. Muck boots (a.k.a. “homesteading flip-flops”)

One doesn’t necessarily need Muck Boot brand boots, but these sorts of boots are indispensable to our homestead. They are great to slip on for chores and piddling about the property. They hold up well – about two years of daily use for us. We like the Muck Boot Chore ST (steel toe) for our purposes. Steel toe is worth it, especially if you’re going to deal with firewood or hauling around heavy materials.

4. Impact Driver

This basic tool gets used almost daily on our homestead. Weekly at a minimum. Drivers are ultra useful for building and fixing. We’ve come to enjoy the DeWalt 20v Max Drivers commonly available at big box stores or Amazon.

5. Headlamp or belt lamp

When we know we have work to do in the dark, which is often, especially in winter – a headlamp is essential. Because we use them a lot, we’ve found it best to just get something of average quality. Petzl and Pelican and Princeton Tec all make a good headlamp. Recently we kickstarted the ONE80 Trek and headlamp project. The belt lamps are entirely awesome for homesteading and are amazingly bright. The batteries don’t last very long (1.5-2h) but are quickly rechargeable. We just keep a spare with us.

6. Small flashlight

There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t reach for my pocket flashlight. Dusk and dawn animal chores, finding small parts that get dropped, peering in dark places… it is used all the time! We’ve really come to love the Streamlight Stylus ProStreamlight Stylus Pro. It’s an affordable pen light that comfortably fits in a pants pocket, runs on two AAA batteries, and seems to run forever without battery replacement. We particularly like its durability and how it feels in our hands, even with gloves on.

7. 5-Gallon buckets with Gamma Seal lids

The five-gallon bucket is perhaps one of the best inventions ever. Gamma Seal Lids make a great thing even better! These lids make five-gallon buckets air and water tight. They’re very useful for keeping critters out of feed, chickens out the bucket waterers, hauling water without spilling, and on and on. The lids are slightly expensive but well worth the investment.

8. 30 and 55-gallon drums

We store a LOT of feed. We also store lots of garden amendments, forage crop seed, etc. Used 30 and 55-gallon (usually plastic for us) drums with clamping lids have been a great and affordable solution for such. A new trash can from a big box store can be $25-$40. These barrels (used and rinsed) are often sold below $10 in our area and accomplish the same thing, but with even better durability.

Used drums without lids also make a great way to store long materials such a scrap metal, PVC, pipe, or other longer upright odds and ends.

9. Chainsaw

Unless your land is entirely free of trees (which doesn’t sound like the nicest of homesteading environments), you are going to want a chainsaw and appropriate chainsaw-related safety gear. Clearing land, cleaning up deadfalls, processing firewood… all things a chainsaw handles with ease. If you haven’t bought one yet, consider buying a top-quality chainsaw, an extra bar, chain files, and several extra chains.

10. First aid kits

This one is intentionally last. Homesteading involves lots of blood, sweat, and tears. Minor injuries, sprains, scrapes and bruises are common. Several good first aid kits, strategically positioned in the best places can provide quick relief when injured.

Tractors, ATV or UTV vehicles are often used for mildly dangerous work and at a distance from your home and can themselves be sources of injury. Consider it essential to have a first-aid kit on board such vehicles. They could save your life. Stock your homestead vehicle first aid kits with a few extra items such as Quick Clot, an Israeli Battle Dressing, and perhaps a military tourniquet.

Of course, without the proper understanding of how to use these items, they won’t do much good! Therefore, gain the proper training to respond to field emergencies that you may encounter.

Have essentials of your own to recommend? Share with us in the comments. Like this post? Please click the Like button.

Why your family should own a quality water filter

We’ve blogged plenty of times about water and the need to have access to good, clean, quality drinking water.

Something every family in the world should consider is this… Where and how do we get access to good, clean, healthy drinking water?

Many in the world cannot answer this question because they have nothing but unhealthy, compromised water to drink. That’s why our family supports organizations like World Vision. However, even those in well-developed countries such as the United States can have compromised drinking water. Most Americans and Europeans wrongly assume that they will always have access to good, clean, healthy drinking water. So let’s ask a follow-up question to the the above question.

Is there anything that could happen that would interrupt how and/or where we secure good, clean, healthy drinking water? Or how about this… What dependencies are there for us getting this water? Is a utility company responsible. Must electricity be present? Must we be able to drive to a store to get water?

Water is essential for life. Without it, most people can survive just around 3 days or so. Yet, for something so important, we invest very little thought, time, and resources into making sure we can continue to have access to such a necessary resource!

Most of us are utterly dependent on systems and variables beyond our control for our water and many other needs. Consider this… A utility could encounter a problem and need to shut off water. The power can be turned off. The store could run out of water. Bottled water companies could shut down. Truckers could go ons strike. A water main could break. The weather could prevent you from reaching the store. The well could break.

These are not extreme, apocalyptic scenarios. These are common events. These things WILL  happen – and they do all the time. Just ask anyone who has been without power for several days due to flooding, hurricanes, etc. All the victims of these events have quickly realized how delicate access to clean water and other necessities can be. A few gallons of water squirreled away in the closet is better than nothing, but it’s not good enough!

Our family has developed our own “Preparedness Pyramid” approach for planning for unexpected things like this. This process allows us to determine how we would meet any need for our short term, intermediate, and long term needs. You can read more about our planning strategy here.

It is our belief, that every family should have a water filter on hand. Not the water pitchers with carbon filters found at Stuff Mart, but a quality product built to make undrinkable water potable.  Yes, these will cost you money. However, the costs are very small and would be of no consequence when clean water is necessary for life to continue! Is your life or the life of your loved ones not worth $50, $100, $200?

My past experience consulting with those going on extended outdoor adventures gave me the opportunity to get an education on these matters, and also learn about some great vendors and products in this arena. Further my own experience backpacking, camping, and several extended trips to third-world countries have given me practical experience in with the tools and processes for making water potable (drinkable/useable) and, unfortunately – what happens when you don’t 😦

So it was without doubt or hesitation that we recently purchased the Katadyn TRK Gravidyn Drip Water Filter. Katadyn has been a world leader in water filtration for a looong time. We’ve been following and using their filters for about 20 years. This filter is perfect for a family of group of families looking to provide emergency fresh water. If you can have only one device for making water drinkable – get this one!

We like this filter because:

  1. It can provide for a family or reasonable-size group of people (1-6 people’s full-time needs) – this could be stretched to meet the needs of more in my opinion.
  2. It can be cleaned and used over and over again for an average of 150,000 litres of water. The cleaner you can make the water going in, the longer it will last.
  3. It’s gravity-fed, meaning it’s simple, passive – requires no pumping and has no moving parts
  4. It can serve functions on picnics, camping trips, and emergencies
  5. It’s robust enough to meet your families needs for weeks to months – long enough for normal systems to come online again or more permanent alternatives to be developed.
  6. It’s a Katadyn, duh!
We’d be happy to answer any questions about sustainable, emergency water source planning you might have. Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line!

Preserve Razors: Good for the environment and cheap too!

We’re constantly surprised just how much disposable razors cost. They must be made of gold and silver given the prices of the blade refill packs! In our opinion, the pricing structure really encourages consumers to keep buying the razors anew since it’s usually less expensive than buying the refill packs. So much for re-use!

On a recent trip to our favorite grocer – Wegmans – we discovered Preserve Razors and refill packs. These razors are made largely from recycled Stonyfield Farm yogurt cups! Aside from being made of recycled materials, these were far cheaper than any leading brand we could find. We were able to pick up a tripe razor with extra blade for $4.99. We even found 4-pack refill packs for $5! It would appear that these razors cost 50% less than the major disposable razors.

They work much better than the cheap disposable razors (although they’re not so cheap anymore) – the ones that come 6-8 in a pack – the one piece deals.

This might not sound like big news to living simply, but it’s one more way to make a positive difference for the planet and the pocketbook!

The specifics of moving from Verizon (with DSL) to Ooma

When we signed up for Ooma and decided to port our phone number, we could not get a consistent answer from either Ooma or Verizon regarding what would happen to our DSL service once the number was ported. Ooma was pretty sure that our DSL service would be dropped and we’d be without internet until we re-established the service. Four separate calls to Verizon regarding this resulted in four separate and inconsistent responses. Three times we were told from Verizon that our service would automatically shut off when the phone number port was completed. During one other call, the Verizon rep insisted that the default action when a phone service with DSL was ported was to convert to “dry-loop” or “naked” DSL. He was right.

You’d think that Verizon and Ooma would both have enough experience with people canceling Verizon phone service to go with VoIP services including Ooma to know what the standard process was! Since we could not locate straight answers from anyone, we decided to write this post to re-assure those who are going through the same process.

Yesterday, after about two weeks with Ooma, our phone number port was successfully completed. We didn’t lose internet service at all. Today, we received two communications from Verizon. One email, the other voice mail (on our newly ported number). Pretty much, all that’s required to keep the DSL is that we contact them within 7 days and provide a new means of paying for the DSL service since we won’t be receiving a bill.

Here’s the Voicemail left from Verizon:
Voicemail from Verizon

Here’s the text of the Verizon Email:

Dear Valued Verizon Online Member,

We know how important your Verizon High Speed Internet service is to you, which is why we are sending you this letter to help make sure that our records are updated following your recent request to change your voice telephone service to another provider.

As a result of that request, your Verizon Online account has been automatically modified so that we can continue to provide your High Speed Internet (HSI) service without Verizon voice service. Your HSI service remains active, and your email address, portal selection (if any), and value added services (if any) will all remain unaffected. If you were previously on a high speed internet annual plan, your commitment has transitioned to your new package and has not changed.

If you wish to continue enjoying Verizon’s High Speed Internet service, please contact our Billing Department at 1-800-567-6789 within the next 7 days. If you do not contact us within 7 days, your HSI service will be suspended for a period of thirty (30) days, then disconnected. If you attempt to access the Verizon HSI service during the suspension period, you will be presented with an opportunity to verify or change your billing information and restore your service.

If you do not wish to retain your Verizon High Speed Internet access service you do not need to take any action. Your service will be suspended after 7 days. Any charges incurred for HSI service following completion of your order to cancel Verizon voice service will be automatically credited within one to two bill cycles.

Your HSI service without Verizon voice is provided on a new dedicated data telephone line: [private]
Please retain this number to help us identify your account if you call us for assistance.

Your new monthly rate for Verizon High Speed Internet without voice is $ [private] per month, effective [private]. Any Verizon bundle discounts you may have previously had are no longer applicable and, if applicable, a bundle early termination fee will be assessed for cancelling the voice component of your Verizon bundle. Your use of the HSI service continues to be governed by the Verizon Online Terms of Service. You can review the Terms of Service by visiting: Internet Access Terms of Service

Thank you for choosing Verizon Online High Speed Internet!

Sincerely,
Verizon Online
Broadband Customer Care Team

So there you have it! If you’re porting a home phone to Ooma from a Verizon local phone service with DSL this is how it works – for now at least!

It’s more than just flashlights and duct tape!

For the non-militia member too!
We have some hesitation about writing the topic of emergency preparedness because of some long-held stereotypes people have. As followers of Yeshua, homeschoolers, Pennsylvanians, etc. some people would just naturally expect us to also be of a survivalist or militia mindset. We can assure you, we don’t belong to the NRA (not that we have objections to them), we don’t have a backyard bunker, heck – we don’t even own gas masks! Nevertheless, we do see some value in being prepared for uncommon or exceptional events.

Are you really prepared?
Plenty of people would call themselves “prepared” for an emergency ranging from a few hours to a few days. Several months ago, we began to be challenged to consider whether or not we were prepared for “the long emergency” – that is, longer-term disruptions to food, medicine, public services and utilities, etc. Perhaps to some, this sounds apocalyptic? Maybe, but there are plenty of non-apocalyptic reasons to be considering these sorts of scenarios.

Prepared for what?
We live in an age of increasing natural, political, and ecological turmoil. Is it really beyond reason that an event such as a large hurricane, solar flares, political unrest, or God forbid, a larger terrorist attack could substantially disrupt life as we know it for weeks or months? Ask those victims of Hurricane Katrina their experiences and you’ll see how desperately ill-prepared most people were.

What’s needed?
To weather these sorts of long emergencies requires more than flashlights and duct tape – it requires advanced planning and preparation of both your mind and your resources. It requires having the resources in advance that will permit your family to survive and thrive during these times, should they come. Your family will never find harm in having 1-3 months of food stocks on hand, or from owning a generator, knowing how to garden, hunt or forage, etc. Emergency preparedness offers only benefits since the skills and resources required will benefit any family.

Preparedness builds community
We’re not personally interested in a “survival of the fittest” way of surviving an emergency. Rather, we’d prefer to be in a place of blessing others with the knowledge and resources we’ve gathered to prepare for such a time. When prepared, families are in a position to help others rather than fearing for their own survival. Should the situation never arise, there’s still benefits to your family and community. Working together with your friends and neighbors to acquire resources and plan for these possibilities deepens relationships and strengthens your community.

Where to find information?
There are thousands of resources online that outline good strategies for preparing for such an emergency. We’ll leave that info to those who excel at such. One such resource that we have found to be extremely helpful to our family is a book called “When Technology Fails“. Every family should own this book! This book covers a wide range of topics covering all the basics of food, water, shelter, medicine and then some. It’s also a primer on alternative energy sources, gardening, foraging, food storage, etc. It’s not a survival manual like you’d expect to find in an Army-Navy store, but more like a manual for the average joe to hold up for a while in an extended emergency. We cannot recommend this book enough. If you can only afford one book on the topic of preparedness, this would be it.

When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency
When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency

Hopefully, you and your family and community will give this topic some serious consideration. It could mean the difference between life and death for you, your family, or anyone else whom you’re able to help. Remember – prepared families make for good and strong families and communities! Please give this topic your careful and prayerful consideration.

First Impressions: Ooma

Yesterday, our Ooma Hub and Scout package arrived just three business days after purchasing (not bad for Amazon’s free super-saver shipping).

Opening the box was reminiscent of opening an Apple product. Those who own Mac’s and other Apple products will know what I mean. Most manufacturers simply see packaging as as way to get products safely into the hands of consumers. Apple, and apparently Ooma too, design their packaging to almost present their products. It’s quite fancy, simple and downright elegant.

But who cares about packaging of the product sucks?

Fortunately, the product itself could easily be confused for an Apple product. It’s design engineers appear to have taken some cues from Apple’s design team. These devices are simple, highly intuitive, easy to use, tidy and clean. Even the colors of white and silver are Apple-like. As a Mac family, we like this of course.

So, we opened it up, found it very easy to understand with a quick start guide and a more detailed users guide. Very few parts in the Ooma Hub. The Hub, the power cord, a phone cord, a network cord. There was also an optional phone line splitter. Before we began installing any hardware, we registered the product which only took a few minutes. The only downside of that process was the lack of available numbers in our calling area, but that’s okay since we’re porting our old home number (more on that another time).

Setting up the hardware was easy. We made it a bit harder because we wanted the device somewhere else in our house and Ooma insists on sitting between your modem and the rest of your network. Some might find this to be irritating, but their reason is to make sure they can prioritize web traffic so that calls don’t suffer should you be heavily using your bandwidth. This setup wasn’t complex because of Ooma, but because of our home network setup. Regardless, we got it setup in no time. From box arriving to installation was 45 minutes to an hour – most of which was spent re-arranging things to where we wanted them.

Once we got things setup, we went ahead and signed up for Ooma’s Premier service. The $99 annual price also included the phone porting which is typically a one-time fee of $39.99. We’re glad we signed up for this. It gives us all sorts of cool features:

  1. Additional phone on-demand phone line – if someone is on the phone, you can just pick up another handset and make a call.
  2. Conference/Party Line
  3. Additional Phone Number anywhere in the US. In our case, we got one in our out-of-town family’s hometown so they could call us without long distance charges
  4. Personal Blacklist (optional) – we can permanently block calls to any number we choose, so when those telemarketers refuse to stop calling, we can just block em’
  5. Community Blacklist (optional) – when enough ooma users vote on blocking certain numbers, they’ll automatically be blocked from calling those who subscribe.
  6. Call Forwarding/Mult-ring – set your phone to forward to your cell phone or also ring your cell phone

These are all in addition to some seriously cool included features that combine the best of many worlds together. The Ooma hub is sort of like an answering machine combined with telco-provided voicemail, yet with a web interface. There’s so many ways to access your messages. Some of the other features we really dig are the do not disturb feature, call screening, custom rings for different r or people, etc.

The voice quality has been fantastic. Should it suffer, one can connect to the Ooma hub with a standard network cable and type http://setup.ooma.com into their web browser where they’ll be directed to the settings for their hub. This is only accessible when plugged directly into the hub! From here, one can increase the allotted bandwidth set aside for calls which should preserve good quality for those who have high bandwidth uses otherwise.

All told, we’re pretty impressed with this product. First it was the savings on the phone bill, now it’s the usefulness and design of the product.

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