Sunday, December 27, 2020

Homesteading, living outside of the box

 Chances are if you are a homesteader or are thinking of becoming one you are a person who thinks "outside of the box". Don't expect most people around you, like friends and family to even begin to understand where you are coming from.  It's just that far outside the realm of "normal" and most people have no frame of reference to be able to relate to you or your idea's and interests. 

I have found it easier to tell people we are "hobby farmers". At least that is a term that a lot of people are somewhat familiar with.  Although a "farmer" is really something I never wanted to be. When I was a boy I was fascinated by the stories of the old folks around me who grew up in the "horse and buggy days" and how they provided for many of their own needs by raising their own food and so forth.  My Grandma on my mothers side upon seeing my keen interest in how she grew up asked me on occasion if I might be a farmer some day.  Too me growing up in the 1960's and 70's a farmer meant someone who needed a college degree and a lot of money to buy expensive tractors and equipment.  I positively did not want to be a farmer as the times defined it even back then.  

Finally, after Kelli and I were married, my cousin Bob gave me a few Countryside magazines to read and I finally knew what I wanted to do.  The kind of "farming" defined as "homesteading" resonated with both of us and we immediately started taking steps in our life together to move towards that goal.

As of 2020 a lot more people can relate to what we do and what we are about with the advent of the internet and television programs featuring all sorts of folks who live off the land to one degree or another.  But there are still plenty of people that look at it as being pretty far out there and kind of quirky.  

What they don't understand is that it goes far beyond just an interest or a hobby, it's way deeper than that, it's more like a "calling".  A calling is something that is kind of hard to explain to the average person who never had one or if they did have one they worked hard to suppress it.  Those people are the ones who will never really "get you" and what you are about.  At best they may pat you on the back and say "oh that's cute" then behind your back shake their heads at how "weird" they think you and your interests are.  And maybe even have contempt and loathing for how irresponsible and negligent you appear to them to be for following after such strange things. 

I see myself not only as a homesteader but I am also something of a "prepper" as well. Though I really did not like the term "prepper" when I first heard it.  I first heard of it when a friend of mine used to tell me about a TV show called "Doomsday Preppers". He liked to tell me about it because a lot of the people featured on there reminded him of me and what we were doing here. I did not like that term at all! I thought it made people like me seem a little "out there" and kind of "half cocked" maybe even somewhat crazy.  You know, a "conspiracy theorist"! That too is a term I'm turned off by.  

One reason I'm driven to prepare is that I don't trust the system.  It is a machine that works very well when it is up and moving but there are MANY weak links that could bring the whole apparatus to a grinding halt in very short order.  I grew up with people who lived during the "Great Depression" and I heard their stories and took it all to heart.  

Ever since I was a boy I always felt in my heart that America would be judged one day.  And I have wanted for myself and my loved ones to be prepared.  As bad as the "Great Depression" was back in the 1930's there were way more farmers than there are now.  There were way more people that knew how to live off the land than there are now.  That is something that is almost always in the back of my mind.  I imagine what would happen in America if the "just in time" delivery service ever got cut off. I imagine what would happen if the trucks stopped rolling or the power got turned off and super markets ran out of food and necessities.  Some believe that millions would die!   

So I'm kind of a hoarder.  By Gods providence He allowed me to be a garbage man for the past 20 years. And I keep stuff, anything that seems like it has any kind of intrinsic value I can't stand to see thrown into the landfill.  I have a couple small junk yards out back which I frequently raid during my many projects finding just the right thing more often than not.  Another thing I keep in mind is that all that stuff would make good bartering tools in the event that the money system ever goes down.  Plus I give a lot away as well.  Some things have been sitting there for decades and if I talk to someone who needs it I usually just give it to them. Does my heart good to see someone use it!     

Another reason I love living where we do is that building codes are way more relaxed here which is wonderful for anyone who is wired to think outside the box.  Before we starting building the log cabin I tried to get a building permit and to my pleasant surprise we didn't need one.  Things have changed since then but that's how it was back in the late 90's.  We didn't have blue prints or plans and simply built it using good old common sense and a stack of library books.  We were able to use our own God given ingenuity and creativity.  

I've always been drawn to natural buildings. I have a repulsion for cookie cutter subdivisions where all the houses look sterile and exactly the same.  I have an attraction to all sorts of alternative and natural building methods such as log, straw bale, cob, rammed earth, under ground or earth sheltered, post and beam or any combination of them all.  Again some of these idea's are so far out of the norm for people that many simply can't comprehend where you are coming from if you try to describe such things.  I don't know how many times I've been met with a blank stare when I try to relate such things.  

For me, my interests in these kinds of things go deeper than just being nice little hobbies and such. It's a calling. The land calls me, the woods and the streams and ponds, working with my hands and creating things is something I need to do.  Also earlier today I was telling Kelli that writing is something I need to do as well.  It helps me collect my thoughts.  I guess that too is something that's a little outside the box that not a lot of people can relate to.  

So I guess the bottom line for me in today's post is that if you have a dream or a calling just go for it! And don't expect very many people to be on board with it.  That doesn't really come until after the fact, until after you've been doing it for awhile then people can say "oh that's what you meant".   In 1998 just before we came here we heard that one of the family members said "they'll be back in 10 months with their tails between their legs". That was 1998 and we are still here.  They didn't understand that it was a calling.  

Until Next Time

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

36th Anniversary


 Kelli and I had our 36th wedding anniversary today. I had turned 21 just two days before we got married. And she was 18. Just a couple of kids! 
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. We more or less finished growing up together.  Been through a lot together her and I. We have three adult children and 5 grand-kids so far.  
We've packed a lot of living in the past 22 1/2 years since we've been here.  We love living here on the land and in this little Northwoods community where everyone knows your name. Can't think of a better place to live, though we both wouldn't mind going south for a couple months in the winter as the winters can be a bit long.  Still haven't figured out a way to do that just yet, but I definitely have a few idea's up my sleeve!   

Kelli and I both enjoy a certain degree of adventure. Nothing too wild, but just enough to scratch that itch. We spent the last week in our log cabin for a little anniversary retreat and that feels like adventure enough spending intentional time together connecting and reconnecting, talking and thinking about the future.  We can never think of a better place to go on our anniversary so we usually wind up staying home and spending time in the cabin.  
Last Saturday Kelli and I and part of the family went out in the woods in search of a Christmas tree and found a dandy!  We usually opt for a purchased tree from some friends who grow them because ours are usually a bit thin from growing in such density.  However this one was kind of out in an open area and filled out just right.  Couldn't have been a nicer tree!  It was a great moment with our kids and grandkids to go out together in the chilly air and bring back a family center piece for the season.  Sharing life with people you love is what life is all about.  

Until Next Time






Friday, November 27, 2020

Happy Homesteaders

 Several years back Kelli and I quit selling our farm produce. We sold the roadside farm stand and scaled way back to just raising food for our selves.  Once we stopped trying to raise enough to sell to the community the stress level went way down and we became happy homesteaders here once again.  

If that was all we were doing I don't think we would have felt as much stress. In essence we were running 3 different businesses. The garbage business, cabin rental and the farmstand/produce sales. Now there is something to be said about being diversified, and I like the idea of that ,but we were getting too far behind on everything to try to keep up with it all. And we weren't as young as we used to be either.  

This last season the only gardening we did was right out our back door in containers and a couple raised beds. This was wonderful and we both thoroughly enjoyed having a kitchen garden, just stepping out the back door to harvest what ever we might want for lunch or dinner.  

We raised one batch of meat chickens and one batch of new laying hens.  Starting way too early with the meat birds, with snow still on the ground we lost more birds than we ever have in the last 22 years of living this homesteading lifestyle.  We ordered the birds way earlier than usual because we heard about people buying up chicks due to the state of the nation earlier this year.  So we didn't want to miss out. It was a mistake to try and raise up the fragile meat chicks in the colder weather, even with 2 heat lamps going 24/7. They outgrew the brooder too soon and our moveable pens simply were not thermal enough for the cold weather we were still experiencing early spring. 

The layer hens which we got later faired much better because that was the time of year we used to get the meat chickens. We were down to a "skeleton crew" of old layers from when we were selling eggs so they badly needed to be replaced. So we have had plenty of eggs since late summer with this new batch of chickens coming of age.  

My parents went in on a freeze drier with us this year so we have been freeze drying the surplus eggs rather than selling them. So then when the egg laying tapers off this winter we will still be eating our own eggs through the winter.  

We are down to just the basics and it's much more manageable for us. We are getting caught up on repairing and rebuilding a lot of the old infrastructure that was getting in disrepair due to us being too busy with 3 businesses.  We have ducks, geese, chickens, sheep and livestock guard dogs to care for year round and now just the small back yard garden.  This is perfect for the two of us to take care of.   

Now the garbage business is just 2 days per week and the cabin is being rented very regularly. I handle the cabin bookings and all the correspondence that it takes with the guests and potential guests. Kelli primarily handles the home keeping, gardening, yard maintenance and now she is the resident freeze drier expert! And we both clean the cabin. I always say we don't have a cabin rental business we have a cabin cleaning business! :)  Our one daughter still living at home used to do a lot of the cabin cleaning, but she now has her own business, a coffee shop in nearby town.   

When we first moved here in 1998 it was easy to get in over our heads with everything.  We were like kids turned loose on a giant 120 acre play ground! We've had just about every kind of farm animal over the years and even horses in the early years.  Horses are a big commitment in time and money and we have steered clear of them for a long time now. I'd love to ride a horse around here again, but all I have to do is remember the commitment in time and money and I go back to excepting that things are just fine as they are now. 

We are living in uncertain times and this year just about takes the cake! Life is always uncertain to be sure but a lot of things are being orchestrated to come to a head this year for whatever reason. It feels like a kind of purging and kind of a separation of the sheep and the goats. Some people are reassessing priorities and what's really important in life.  Others are just embracing their evil side and going with it. It's getting easier to see who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are. 

We just wait and see how the rest of this year will play out. I hope you are prepared for anything at this point.

Until Next Time




Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020


I lost my inspiration to keep on blogging. The only reward was just having a place to share my thoughts and maybe get an "atta boy" once in awhile from someone who was moved by my writing. 

Been on facebook for 4 or 5 years give or take and the only reason I went on there was to try and promote our log cabin rental logcabinhomestead.com.  However I found that it was enjoyable to connect with family and friends that I had not communicated with in decades so I got fairly hooked on it. 

But I'm getting kind of burned out on social media especially this year 2020 where the divisions in our country have come to the forefront of everyone's attention.  Deep, deep divisions! 

A lot of people buying into all kinds of scams, just makes my heart sick.  People don't seem to know a con-job when they see one.  

I'm not putting my trust in any political party, but I am putting my trust in Jesus Christ that everything will work out for His good in the end.  Evil doers who think they have it made in this world will ultimately receive their just reward!  

With that out of the way I may just start making posts on here once again. It's a quiet place these days and there will be less likelihood that I'll offend people. I expect to be able to just relax and be myself here once again.  Just me and this vast expanse of uninhabited cyber space called "blogger". It's hard to believe that it is actually still here really. I think I get surprised the rare times that I pop in here and everything is just as a left it. Nothing that I even have to dust off!  Clean as a whistle! 

It's risky to air your religious and political beliefs on social media when you're trying to promote a business since you can easily alienate half your potential customers.  I always thought I might try to use this blog as a way to promote our cabin, but I never really geared it up that way.  Can't really refer our cabin guests to it either since it really became kind of a place where I aired some of my most personal thoughts, things I wouldn't necessarily share with people in a business type relationship with us.  

I should have created a sight where we just talk about the land, homesteading and cabin life and leave the personal stuff out of it.  But then again I'm really not a marketing guy, I just am who I am, take it or leave it! 

I've been seeing people become very successful via the internet and social media. One guy I've been watching on YouTube for awhile is one of those success stories Wranglerstar.  The first video I saw of his was where his dog I think, was attacked by a coyote and I think he shot it, if I remember right. Anyway I looked at his other video's after that and really enjoyed them.  He had not been homesteading near as long as us, but he really had a way of communicating with his audience.  

I watched Wranglerstar grow to having over a million subscribers and I watched him and his family become more and more financially successful judging by the many items, tools and machinery they were acquiring to make homesteading life that much easier.  He is an excellent communicator and does a fantastic job doing product reviews.  It appears that he gets a lot of free stuff from manufacturers so that he can review them. Plus he has an amazon store where you can buy the things he's reviewed getting a cut of all the sales of those items.  I'm happy to see these kinds of success stories.  However there does seem to be a down side to that kind of fame in that there are a lot of weirdo's out there who give him trouble from time to time.  That might be one reason why I held back on really trying to use this platform as a way to promote our business.  

Our log cabin rental really took off after we got on Airbnb. Our rentals almost doubled over night once we got on there. We have used Airbnb for several years now but will be ending our relationship with them starting January due to their political affiliations and stance on "covid".  There again a business risks alienating customers when they air their positions on certain things!

The log cabin rental business has been an over all positive thing for us since the early 2000's.  We were planning on starting another cabin this year, but then with the whole virus "lock down" thing we got cold feet and decided it wasn't the right time to expand.  But in reality I'm pretty sure this has been our best year ever on renting the cabin! So it probably wouldn't have hurt to start another one judging by this years success. Just lots of uncertainties to make a guy nervous to take a leap.  

My hope for building more cabins is to retire from picking up garbage for a living, yes I'm still picking up garbage it's been 20 years this year.  But I've made some deals with other haulers that have got me down to just 2 days a week of collecting garbage and now for the time being have a guy helping me. A much needed break for my sore body!  Actually earlier this year I injured my shoulder and have been working with this the majority of the year. The pain level has been about as much as I can bare, but this fellow who has been helping is an answer to prayer!  I can feel my shoulder mending! Praise the Lord!

Well there's a lot to catch up on but I will save it for more posts.  Heck maybe I really will get back into blogging!  

Until Next Time  

    


Sunday, November 18, 2018

20 years


Last spring marked 20 years of us living here. A lot has happened in the last 20 years. A lot has changed.  When I look in the mirror I see a much older, much more experienced man looking back at me.

20 years ago I was a jumble of emotions, with all kinds of extremes, excitement for a new adventure, happiness that a lifelong dream was finally coming true, a sense of freedom, and then there were all kinds of fears, hang-ups and anxieties.  Mixed emotions! Our kids were still pretty young then.  How was I going to support our family? I didn’t have a real job.  I worked for a short time through a temp service working at just minimum wage, hardly enough to support us.

During that stint of working for minimum wage, which was a hard pill to swallow after having left a $20+ an hour job before we moved, I would imagine that I could make more money doing just about anything else on my own, for instance I could mow lawns.  I never did do that, but I was confident that I could make more money than minimum wage just mowing peoples lawns.

As God’s providence went we got into the garbage business in the year 2000 two years after we’d been here. We are still currently in the garbage business after 18 years.  It’s been a long hard journey, but I still wouldn’t trade my life here in this place for anything else, except heaven of course.

My favorite place on earth right now is out at the beaver pond on our land. I love sitting out there watching the ripples on the water and hearing the sound of it as it flows through the dam.

Our kids are all adults and Kelli and I are now grandparents. So far 2 grandsons and 1 granddaughter.  We love this newest season of life of being grandparents.

Our married children still live in Wisconsin, but not close by.  Its 3 hours to one and 4 hours to the other.  One daughter is still home with us.  We cherish the times when we can all be together.

In 2017 we finally had to make a decision. We had 3 businesses going at once, the garbage collection, the log cabin rental and the road side vegetable stand dubbed the “farm stand”. We just couldn’t keep being spread so thin so we decided to stop doing the thing that was least profitable for us and that was the farm stand.  

Kelli and I never were real good at it.  It was always kind of a miracle that we ever had any produce to sell at all.  There were things about it that were enjoyable but the truth is that farming is not either mine or Kelli’s strong suit.  We are better at simply “homesteading” and not attempting to make a business out of it.  We want to always have animals and a small garden, but to try and raise enough to market; we know that’s no longer for us.

So now for income we are just concentrating on the garbage business and the log cabin rental and the cabin rental has really been taking off the last few years. If we can ever get the funding we’d like to build 4 more cabins and that hopefully will be our retirement and then get out of the garbage business which is so labor intensive.  I’m almost 55 and am hoping and praying that I’m not still throwing garbage at age 60.

My current dream is to get a saw mill, build more log cabins and a little “HEATED” wood shop, and harvest timber off of our land and create things with the wood.  Notice that I emphasized the word “heated” wood shop, after 20 years I’m still doing all my work out in the cold in this often frigid northern climate and a little heated shop is something that I REALLY long for.

With the extra income from the log cabin rental we were able to purchase more land.  We acquired another 80 acres giving us a grand total of 200 acres.  This works real nice with the log cabin rental because our guests have a lot of places to explore here as we have and maintain miles of trails all throughout.

The terrain here is like no other I’ve ever seen, there is something very unique about it, with its mixture of open pasture, high and low land, woods, swamps, ponds and creeks and rolling hills.  We knew it had everything we wanted when we first laid eyes on it in the fall of 1989.  We purchased the original 120 acres in January of 1990, way back in the last century! Ha,ha Sounds so long ago!

But even after nearly 29 years of exploring this land we are still finding little hidden secret places that we didn’t even know were here known only to the woodland creatures like deer, rabbits, squirrels, porcupines, raccoons, skunks, weasels, muskrats, bears, fox, coyotes and the occasional wolf to name a few. There’s more!

I’ve pretty much given up on blogging, but I’ve been meaning on making a post to commemorate our 20th anniversary of living here on this land.  Maybe someone will happen by and see it then again maybe not and that’s alright. It’s written down here and will be here as long as this current digital media lasts (who can know how long that will be), maybe my grandkids will read it and get a kick out of it if it’s still here.

Until Next Time,

Russ      


Friday, March 31, 2017

Lokum pics 3-30-17


Lokum is adjusting well to his new home! 


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Adopted a new Kangal Dog

 

 

This is Lokum our new Kangal Dog. Our third Kangal. 

 

 First one died prematurely from getting out on the highway and the second one Sarah is doing great.  Sarah is a very great live stock guardian dog.  Sarah is now about 8 years old. 

 

 We adopted Lokum through a rescue in Southern IL called "Howlin 4 Help Rescue" which was working in conjunction with the Kangal Dog Club.  Thanks to Jerry, Liz, Christine and Mary for making it a smooth transaction!  All great folks to work with! 

 

 Lokum is 2 years old and apparently he was too much for his original owner to handle due to some unforeseen circumstances in her life being left as a single mother.  Lokum does require a strong arm as he is 120lb to 125lb and has LOTS of energy. 

 

 We drove down to southern IL on Thursday picked him up on Friday and returned to northern WI Friday night. 

 

Yesterday which was Saturday I took Lokum out several times and brought him in the house to meet the family and took him out for walks on a 6' leash.  Took him for a long walk of just under a mile.

 

 Today I did the same with several short walks brought him into the house for a couple short visits to see the family and one good long walk this time over 1 mile.  We have 200 acres all together so can walk for miles and never leave our land.

 

 On the long walk I had him on a 30' retractable lead which gave him a lot more exercise than yesterday on the short 6' leash where he mostly walked at heel the majority of time.  With this 30' retractable lead he got lots of opportunity to run around and burn off some energy. 

 

 This is only the second full day here at our farm and he is already doing so well I think he will be a great asset to our operation. 

 

 Sarah turned out to be a fantastic dog but she is aging.  Still doing great as a livestock guardian, but large dogs do not live terribly long so maybe we will have a few more good years with her so it is nice to have a younger dog on hand to move into her role once she is no longer as effective. 

 

 

 This is Sarah in the house for a visit just over a month ago. 

 

Comparing Lokum to Sarah, Lokum is built way better in the way he is put together he moves way more fluidly than Sarah.  And he is way more muscular with a bigger head and neck.  Way more capable of going up against a predator if he had to.  However the idea is that the deter the predator rather than go up against them toe to toe.  I would never want any of my dogs to have to actually physically encounter a large predator like a wolf or bear but if it did happen I would want my dog to have a fighting chance. 

 

Our first dog Arie had a nice build and moved with fluidity like Lokum.  If I were breeding Kangal Dogs I would breed for good movement like that.  On the other hand Sarah is great in that she isn't high energy and she is a real "home-body".  She never tries the fences and never wants to be far from the livestock.  Whenever I take her out for walks or a visit to the house she gets restless and wants to go back to the animals and her place.  Time will tell if Lokum will turn into a "home-body" as well. 

 

Arie was not a good LGD in that she was a hunter and very "gamey" she wanted to hunt everything that moved.  That's what got her killed as I think she was out chasing deer.  Looking back on it and having pondered what happened with her for years now I think Arie climbed out over one small portion of fence that was not electrified.  It was about a 6' x 6' section that I never got around to putting electric fencing on because it was on the other side of a gate and connected to a building.  Arie would have been a fantastic "hunting mastiff" one that someone could have taken wild boar hunting. 

 

Well any way this post is mostly about Lokum, but with him being our 3rd Kangal I can't help but compare him to the others.  It's only been a couple days now, but I think he's got the making of a great dog. 

 

See my Kangal Dog blog for history on our first two Kangal Dogs. 

 

http://livestockguardian-kangaldog.blogspot.com/

 

Until Next Time