Posts tagged ‘environment’

New Resources Added to The Learning Academy

We’ve added:

to The Modern Pioneer Learning Academy. Available to read online or download. We recommend printing them out just in case. More coming soon!



5 Best Essential Oils for Your First Aid Kit

Time to get that medicine box ready!

Why You Shouldn’t Homestead

Build a Composting Toilet for $20 or Less

Greywater System-Friendly Natural DIY Laundry Detergent

If you’re using a greywater recycling system on your homestead, you already know that harsh detergents and soaps are a no-no. You can buy natural detergents, but some of them are ridiculously expensive. The point is to spend less money not more, am I right? After looking around, googling, thinking and experimenting, we have come up with a very simple recipe for DIY laundry soap that is safe for your greywater system. It won’t hurt your plants and won’t harm the soil or the environment. It’s also pretty cheap to make. Cool, huh?

You will need: IMG_20160229_070151

This recipe is very easy. You simply combine equal parts of everything (like maybe 1/4 cup each) and mix it all together in a container. One small scoop per load does the trick. Most recipes call for lye or Fels Naptha soap, but with the yucca root powder or soapnut powder, it isn’t necessary. They are the “soaps” instead of lye or Fels Naptha. This recipe has no fragrance, but you could add an essential oil to it if you want it to smell nice. You could also technically use soapnut or yucca powder all by themselves as a totally natural laundry soap.

If you don’t want to buy washing soda or if you have an absolutely humongous box of baking soda (like we do for some reason), you can make some washing soda by spreading baking soda on a cookie sheet and baking it at 425 for up to an hour, stirring about halfway through the time. (At 400 degrees, baking soda undergoes a chemical process that changes it into washing soda.)

When rinsing your laundry, add 1/2 cup of vinegar to every 5 gallons of rinse water to soften and remove odors. You’re done! Laundry comes out fresh, clean and odor-free. More importantly, the greywater is nontoxic to your garden or your land.

*NOTE: Like many things, both Borax and washing soda can become dangerous to plants if too much is used, so don’t overdo it. This recipe works very well and you don’t need much; a little goes a long way, especially if you are using rainwater (it contains no minerals and it’s naturally soft).

An Alternative Method For Homestead Laundry

If you read our “Laundry on The Homestead” article, you know there are quite a few different methods for doing your laundry on the homestead, ranging from the very labor-intensive to the more laid back. There is however an in-between method. It combines some of the labor of hand-washing with the confidence and ease of a machine to create a middle-of-the-road product that we are very satisfied with.

Meet The Wonder Wash. It’s cheap, it’s cute, it works and to be honest, I wish I’d thought IMG_20160229_052050of it. Seriously, it’s so simple and works so well. You just add water (about a gallon and a half for a full load), add soap, add up to 5lbs of clothes, seal the pressurized lid and turn the crank. The instructions tell you how long to turn it per load, but to me it doesn’t seem long enough. I usually turn a full load for about 4 minutes. Then simply attach the drainage pipe and let the water out. You can either rinse the clothes in the washer by adding clean water and cranking some more (which I do now) or in a rinse tub (which I will do on the homestead). Wring and hang dry. Very easy and it cleans your clothes just fine.

We use this all the time already because though I adore my electric wringer-washer, this is much easier to use and requires less water. Sheets, small blankets, jackets and heavy sweatshirts fit in this little guy just fine as well, but for heavier blankets or coats, you’ll need to use a different method or go to a laundromat. You could probably smash them in there but it’s debatable how clean they would actually get.

It’s hard plastic that does not feel flimsy but obviously will break if treated too roughly, and it could use some stabilization when it is being cranked, because it moves a bit and that requires more work to keep it in place. It does have suction cups but they don’t prevent it from sliding. We plan to use screws to attach it to the countertop beside the sink at the homestead in order to fix this.


  • It’s compactIMG_20160301_085849
  • It’s lightweight
  • It requires zero electricity
  • You have full control over how long clothes wash
  • It can use hot or cold water
  • It works


  • It could use some stabilization to hold it while cranking
  • The drainage pipe is tricky and can be messy before you master it
  • For some reason, my washer has a pinkish tint; this is not a huge deal but… yeah
  • We recommend using a wringer; even with draining, clothes come out soaked

Overall, this little washer is definitely worth the $40 we paid for it. The purchase of the wringer will raise the cost of it overall, but a wringer should be purchased anyway, regardless of which method you use to do laundry. They are not essential, but your clothes will dry much more quickly if you use one. (You might think you can wring them out well enough by hand, but after you try a wringer, you will see that the difference is huge.) We are still taking our electric wringer-washer to the homestead but as we intend to build on to our solar energy system gradually, we won’t be using it for a while.

*This review is my own opinion and I was not compensated in any way. Bought the product with my own money.

Looking For an Alternative to Those High-Priced Rain Barrels? Try This.

If you’re planning to move to a homestead, you’ve undoubtedly researched rainwater harvesting and water purification. For us and for most people, the biggest hurdle is cost. A rainwater system is expensive and so is a purification system. Like, really expensive. For instance, a larger reverse osmosis system costs upwards of $300 and it requires power to run. This problem can be eliminated by using a berkey water purification system – costs a bit less than $300 depending on the size and requires no power to run – but what about the rainwater collection itself? Purchasing a system is nice, but for a family of 3-4 people, you’re looking at over $1,000. Some of us just don’t have that kind of money, and the barrels themselves are very expensive.

Searching for alternatives, we came across this article about rain harvesting. It is the ibcanswer we have been looking for. That answer is industrial IBC food grade containers. They are made from materials that are safe to hold food or water, and they have only ever held food or water substances. They mostly come in 275 gallon size, they can be cleaned for reuse and best of all, they are a fraction of the price of rain barrels. I found some on this website for less than $100 each. (They also sell food grade barrels, wooden crates, pallets and other very useful stuff, but some items have a minimum order stipulation.) That means, for example, that a 430 gallon collection system which would have cost me over $800 just for the barrels now costs a fraction of that and I get 120 more gallons. You don’t need to be a math whiz to figure that one out, folks. It’s a lot cheaper. Check Craigslist, Amazon and eBay. They’re out there.

There are few things to consider with these containers, but the main consideration is algae growth. As you can see, these particular tanks are translucent. That means light will filter through, and light means algae. You’re going to need to keep these tanks covered with something so that light cannot penetrate the material, or you will have an algae problem. You can also buy or build a box for them to sit in and you could probably also bury them, but we prefer them to be where we can see them and get to them if something were to need adjustment.

We are getting ours soon. If you have any other ideas, let us know in the comments! Good luck!

The Importance of Greywater

If you live on a homestead or are planning to in the future, you’ve probably heard of greywatergreywater. So what the heck is it?! Grey water is a term used to describe the relatively clean waste water from baths, sinks, washing machines, and other kitchen appliances. Basically, grey water is “used” water that is not toilet water (that’s called “black water”).

If you are moving to a homestead, you need to have a plan for what will happen to your greywater. It has to go somewhere. Many folks use it to irrigate their garden or orchard, but this can be tricky if you use detergents or harsh soaps in your laundry. Too much of that stuff can kill your plants, and you might not have the money or knowledge to create a complicated filtering system. A good way to get around that is to use non-detergent soaps in your cleaning applications. You can either buy it or make your own using non-detergent “soaps” like yucca root and soapnuts, as we do. You should still filter the water at least a little, of course. There can be organic matter in it, such as from washing dishes and it needs to be purified a bit. However, if you are composting your scraps and not allowing large particles of food down the drain, you don’t have to worry too much.

It’s easy enough to divert your greywater to your garden or orchard site. You simply run itwater filter
through a pipe that opens into a drainage area. That’s it! It’s best to use a system that relies on water flow rather than pooling or collection. This cuts down on pathogens and bacteria allowed to grow in it. You don’t want to store greywater unless you’ve got a good purification system set up for cleaning it. If you’re going to use it for a garden of edible veggies, ditto. We personally use vinegar in the laundry rinse water, as a conditioning rinse for our hair in the shower, and we plan on constructing a natural filtration system for it in the drainage area. You could also add hydrogen peroxide to your greywater system to help with purifying it. It can be good for plants, too!

It should go without saying that it isn’t recommended to reuse greywater for drinking or cooking, regardless of whether you’ve cleaned it or not. If you need a clean drinking water solution for your homestead, try harvesting rain water and purifying it with a Berkey water filtration system. No power needed!

Making Money With Your Homestead: How to Make Your Land Work For You

So it finally happened! You’ve got your land and you want to create a self-sustaining homestead. Perhaps the most important thing you can do with your land is to make it work for you. You can produce enough food and energy to take care of your family and your animals on even a small parcel of land, but you might be interested in ways you can use your land to make money for you as well.

Here are a few ideas you could utilize to make some extra cash with your land.


  • Offer a hunting or fishing lease. Depending on the laws and how much land you have, offering hunting leases is a great way to make some extra cash from your property. There are lease listing services that will take care of the headache and promotion for you, so all you have to do is collect the money. Of course, you want to make sure your ponds are stocked well and there is an abundance of game on your property before offering it for lease.


  • Offer camping. If your property is near a state or national park, a waterfall or any other recreational activity or landmark, you’re already way ahead of the game. We stayed at a rustic campground during a vacation to Delaware Beach and it was loads of fun – as well as being much cheaper than a hotel. Your campground can be as primitive or as luxurious as you’d like, and can operate seasonally or year-round. Hunters love camp sites! You could have a small petting zoo using your livestock, offer hiking in a nearby national park, horseback riding, swimming if you’ve got a lake or pond, fishing, boating, you could put up small cabins and rent them out, offer meals for more income… whatever you can afford and would like to offer. The possibilities are endless and are truly up to you. (Just about any one of these things could be offered alone as well, if camping on private land is not permitted in your area.) Check with your local government to make sure camping is permitted. An alternative to this idea if you have money to invest in it is to open a bed and breakfast or resort of some kind.


  • Breed and sell animals. This is perhaps one of the best ways to make some cash with your land. Depending on how much land you own, the investment you can put in to a breeding pair and what the laws are where your land is, you could bring quite a bit of money in by breeding quality animals, either for show, companions or for food. This includes goats, chickens and rabbits, as well as dogs and cats. (Some people breed mink and foxes for fur, but we do not believe in raising or wearing fur and besides that, if any of these animals ever escape, they can devastate your ecosystem in a very short period of time. Especially minks; weasels and their relatives are pound for pound the most ferocious predator in any ecosystem.)


  • Sell fruits and veggies. If you find yourself with far more than you can possibly eat, open a roadside stand or become part of the local farmer’s market. People love to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. Some farmers also offer baked goods as well.


  • Create a spiritual retreat. It’s like a campground, but with spirituality-related activities. Some are more spa-like and others are rustic. Some are traditional, offering prayer groups and other Christian activities, while others are less traditional and have more esoteric or nature-based themes. It’s totally up to you. Spiritual retreats might offer things such as drum-circles, yoga, group meditations, art workshops, sweat lodges, instruction on meditation, herbal remedies or aromatherapy, aromatherapy treatments, massages, acupuncture, soul clinics, past-life regressions and much more. A variation on this is to create an artist’s retreat, where creative folks can come to create or be inspired in peace.

These are just a few of the ways you can make extra income with your land. Land is one of our most precious resources and one of the most valuable things we can have as human beings. Tell us your ideas in the comments!

To Tiny House or NOT to Tiny House?



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