Monday, April 18, 2011

Solar Dishwasher
Over the past year I have been learning about being self sufficient . Some call it alternative living , or being GREEN. One day as I was looking for solar panels to power a cabin , I ran across a site called , simple solar homesteading. It look interesting , so I clicked on it . I read through the site, watched the videos , and even bought LaMar's e-book. In his book he tells you how to make a solar dishwasher. At first I thought this was some guy going to tell me how to hook up a solar panel up to a dishwasher. But no, not even close to it . It was something so simple , I don't know why anyone else hasn't thought of this before.

So I ended up making one. I think over all I spent about $20.00 .

The Link Below is to more photos of the solar dishwasher.

You could probable get away with making one for less. When I first made mine , I didn't think I would use it all that often .My main reason for the build was to have it in case we went camping , or if we had no electric . But as time has went on I find myself using it almost daily. I'll tell you why. You may laugh ,but here it goes.

My automatic dishwasher if 5 years old , it still works , but It's kinda noisy . When it's on . I'm fighting with my husband over the volume of the TV "TURN IT DOWN! ARE YOU DEAF?"
I'm sure it's like that for many of you. If it's not that ,
when I have a load in the dishwasher going, and my husband comes home for lunch.He will open the door on the dishwasher , which stops it , and will watch TV ,eat , and then go back to work. When I got to put the dishes away I find out that the dishes are really dirty because he didn't shut the door on it and let it finish washing them. Then we have the problem with it sometimes not getting the dishes clean enough. This is due to me not buying the $4.00 bottle of Cascade that the dishwasher is suppose to use. I don't see the point in paying $4.00 for dish soap when I can get reg dish soap for $1.00. So I buy the off brand , and use it .

Then over the summer I had 5 kids to watch almost everyday . During the week, I was making 2 meals a day for them. Which dirtied up a lot of dishes. I had my auto dish washer full of dishes , and still had a sink full. So I pulled my solar dishwasher out for the first time. I placed my dishes in it , squeezed some reg. Dawn dish soap on them . Then I picked it up , and took it outside and filled it up with water , using my water hose. I placed the lid on , and cooked the dishes with the sun for a few hours. Smile I know that sounds funny . Cooked my dishes. lol I went back a few hours later , and dumped the water out in the yard , picked it up , brought it in the house. I rinsed , and dried the dishes and I was done.

It wasn't until the weather turned cold that I tried it out in the house. I did the same thing , but I used a 1 gal bucket , and the kitchen sink to fill it , and empty it when I was done. I got the same result. CLEAN DISHES!

I was surprised that the hot water stayed hot for soo long even in the house. I put dishes in it around 2pm, and it was still warm at Midnight the same day. I have noticed that the water being use is less then a reg. dishwashing machine. I only use the water I need. If the water is still clean , hot, and soapy I have reused the same water. Then there is the other plus. I am not using any electric while washing dishes.

The only complaint I have gotten from my husband , is the plastic dishes taste soapy. I think that is my fault. Either not rising them well enough , or adding to much soap is seeps into the plastic.
I do need to warn you on rust. I had some cheap pans , and left them over night in the solar dishwasher. The next morning they had rust spots. This has also happened on cheap silverware. I have mainly seen it on a few of my knives. But it's not a biggy. Same thing would happen if left in the sink over night.

Tip  to help with moving it around I suggest getting a flat , 4 wheel ,furniture dolly. I found one for my brother for $10.00 at Big Lots. I was lucky enough to find a wooden drawer with wheels for $4.00 at my local Salvation Army. Thrift Store. It's made life a lot easier when doing the dishes in the solar dishwasher.

Now go forth , and go built your own to be a little greener , and maybe have a
happier husband. :)


If you would like to read more of my blogs. You can find it here

I love raising chickens and have a flock of 6 hens that supply me with enough eggs plus extra for trading.

Chickens are relatively easy to raise and a simple coop or chicken tractor, a waterer, feeder, roost and laying boxes is all that is required.

You can get baby chicks at most farm supply stores in the spring or order them through the mail. You can even get fertilized eggs and hatch your own.

Chicks need to be kept warm and dry until they are feathered out which takes 2-3 months depending on the breed.

A simple chick brooder can be made from a wood box or kiddy pool covered with mesh cloth and a red brooder lamp.

Chicks should only be fed chick mash until they are feathered. grown chickens are fed laying mash and give them some oyster shell supplement for stronger shells. Chickens will start laying some time after 6 months old and first eggs will be small and soft.

Eggs do not have to be refrigerated if you will be eating them in 2 or 3 days. Do not scrub eggs and just brush and rinse them off gently.
Home grown chickens provide better meat and can also be used for fertilizer for your garden but mix it with compost because chicken fertilizer is hot in nitrogen and will burn up plants.

So go get you some chicks!

Strombergs sells chicks by mail:

Do it Brooder Heat Lamp, 250W 10" BROODER HT LAMP $6.97


Miller 9835 5-Gallon Galvanized Poultry Fountain

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Off the Grid

Finding Cheap Homesteading Land (part two)

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In part one we discussed finding undeveloped land using Ebay but sometimes it is better to buy land with a home on it even if that home is in bad repair.

Property that has had a home on it has some advantages such as utility lines, water source, and septic system or sewer lines.

Right now there are many homes in foreclosure that are begging for some TLC from someone that can rebuild or repair them. These may need major repairs or minor depending on the home.

These homes may be in a location where work has dried up so you will need to asses the job situation or consider starting a business or homesteading for a living.

Foreclosed homes are sold as is so try to visit the home and know what repairs will be necessary to make the house livable.
In some cases the home may not be saveable but if the land is good and has utilities you will be ahead of the game and you may be able to salvage a lot of materials from the old house to build your new home. Lumber, windows, doors, and fixtures can all be salvaged.

ALWAYS get a warranty deed on a home and check to make sure their are no liens or back taxes owed. Contact the county offices to verify the home is livable and what taxes are due.

So where do you find foreclosed homes ?

If you know where you want to live contact the real-estate agents listings and the banks or you can use Ebay to find foreclosed homes all over the country.

Click here:  Foreclosed homes on Ebay

Just a brief look through these listings and I can see 4 homes that will sell for under $2000!

At that price you get a house or building material, land and utilities so it might be a better deal than buying undeveloped land and building from scratch.

ANY land can be used for homesteading if you have the desire and are willing to do the work.



Finding Cheap Homesteading Land


One question I get asked a lot is where do you find cheap homesteader land so I thought I would show you how I have purchased land using Ebay.

Here is a current feed of land on Ebay with No Reserve price which means it will sell for whatever the high bid is regardless of bid. You can get some great property at ridiculously low prices by watching the Ebay auctions for the last minute bid. Click  on the links and check out the prices and listings:

It is important that you read the listing carefully!
Is the auction a true No Reserve or are you bidding on just the down payment ?

Look through the listing for the land description. How many acres and what are the dimensions. What is the zoning. Is their a right of way. Does the land have utilities near by. Can you have a water well and septic system ?

Is there any back taxes owed- the seller should declare all back taxes are paid and current. Is there any dues associated with the land- that should be declared in the listing. What kind of deed: only buy land from a seller that provides a warranty deed not a quit claim deed. Quit claim deeds offer almost no protection if in case the seller did not own the land or their was a lein against the land. The deed is usually an additional fee and is added to the sale price. It will usually be under $200 and you will receive the deed in about a month.

Those are questions a good listing should include and don't buy without that information.

Next I write down the county name and google the county website. Go to the county building department website and mosthave a copy of building codes available. READ THEM!

You can use google maps to find the exact location of the property from the GPS coordinates and visit all the community websites for that county  to see what is available, the population, working conditions, recreation etc.

Now go to the sellers feedback and read what other buyers have said. I never buy from any seller with less than a 98% positive rating.

If there is a buyer in the sellers feedback that has purchased land in the area you are looking at contact them through Ebay and ask if they have visited the land and what they thought.

If the land is close enough I highly recommend you visit the area before you buy and spend some time on the land, talking to neighbors, visiting the town and recreation sites to get a feel for the land.

WHEN you have done that you are ready to bid on a piece of land and as always you are expected to do your due diligance before purchasing.

So have fun looking through the Ebay land listings and I hope you find your dream homestead!

Next time we will discuss foreclosed homes:


Hand Crank Washing Machine

Hi folks and welcome to the new Homesteader News blog!
I will try to keep this blog fresh with news and articles on homesteading, off-grid and simple living.
I have been an off-grid homesteader for about 15 years now and live a very simple life in a small solar cabin I built myself in Utah near the foot of the high Uintah Mountains.
I am surrounded by about 1 million acres of Ute Tribe land and another million acres of Federal BLM land. That means even though my own property is small I have a huge backyard to play in any time I want.  I have many fishing streams and lakes near by and hunting for deer and small game at my door step.
In fact today there were two bucks- a 4 point and a spike just out my backdoor laying in the orchard. I don't need the meat right now but that buck will probably end up in my freezer by fall.

I am semi-retired and run a small pest control business. I work abut 7 months a year and in the winter I write books and enjoy my other hobbies. I don't need much money because I have no house payment and no monthly utility bills.
I am a scounger and wannabe inventor and I am always looking for ways to make my homestead more sustainable by reducing my power needs and simplifying my life. I do this because I don't ike spending money and because I hate waste and prefer something homemade to storebought.
My most recent project design is for a hand crank washing machine that can also be used as a tumbling composter. Below are the simple directions for that project. The idea for this project came to me as I was watching a PBS special on people in India and they showed how many of the people living in rural areas still washed their clothes by beating them on rocks in the river. I thought- there must be a better way and surely someone has designed a simple off-grid washing machine that could be put together from scavenged materials.
Well, I did some research but all I could find were small commercial units like the wonderwasher- which I own and does work for small loads.
So here is my design:

Compost Tumbler or Clothes Washer
This project is built from a plastic 50 gallon barrel, five 2x4x8's and a 1 inch diameter 5 foot long steel pipe. You will also need a short piece of strap hinge, S hook latch and a 1 inch drain plug.
Step #1
Cut a 1 foot by two foot door on one side of the barrel. Use the cut out piece to make the door using the hinge and the S hook latch.

Step #2
Drill a one inch drain hole on the bottom side of the barrel opposite the door and insert the drain plug.
Step #3
Attach a 1x2 scrap to the top end of the barrel using glue and screws to be a handle for turning.

Step #4
Drill a 1 inch diameter hole in the end of each barrel and slide the length of pipe through these holes
Step #5
Build the frame using the dimensions shown here and attach the wood together using glue and screws. The upright frame member is two 2x4x3'5" glued together.

How it works
Just slide the 1 inch pipe through the barrel and the frame and you are ready to compost. Put in all your kitchen food scraps except for meat and add in your grass and weed clippings.
Using the attached handle give the composter a few turns back and forth to aerate and turn the compost every few days. In a few weeks you should have rich black compost that can be added to your garden, fruit trees or shrubs.

If you want to make compost tea just pour in a gallon or two of water and let it steep for a day and
then drain the liquid off into a bucket using the drain plug. This compost tea is an excellent fertilizer for your house plants and vegetables.

To Make The Clothes Washer

By just adding a few agitator boards to this project you can also make a very good clothes washer.

Insert three 1"X2"x3' boards through the door (don't cut end of barrel) and attach at even spaces around the sides of the barrel as shown in the picture with roofing screws and rubber washers. Screw in the screws through the outside wall of the barrel in to the wood agitator boards.

How it works
Just put in your clothes to below the middle and fill the washer up with just enough water to cover the clothes and your biodegradable detergent. Close the door and using the handle start rocking the barrel back and forth. The agitator boards will scrub the clothes clean.
Drain the dirty water into a bucket for use on your shrubs or fruit trees. Refill the barrel with water and agitate again to rinse the clothes. Repeat as necessary. Drain the barrel and agitate the clothes to spin out excess water. Hang the clothes in the sun and you are done.
The clothes will still be quite wet but will drip dry usually in a few hours hanging on a clothes line. To speed up the process you could use a hand wringer or bucket wringer. Here are a few products from amazon that you might be interested in:
Columbus Washboard 2072 Family Size Washboard
Behrens 00-OV 4-Gallon Oval Steel Tub
Crawford-Lehigh LA84P-1 Large Capacity Deluxe Parallel Clothes Dryer