Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Living like Little House on the Prairie

Modern pioneer houseEmulating life in the late 1800s a la Little House on the Prairie is a lesson in conservation and frugality. Life may have been a whole lot tougher back then, but the end result was living life with less impact on the environment.

For modern day pioneers, you get the environmental benefits as well as the money saving ones. And, if your financial portfolio is taking a nosedive, consider trying some 19th century ways of life to snap you back into the black.

1. Grow your own food - Planting your own food crops may take some time to learn how to do properly, but once you get the hang of it, you'll save a ton of money on your food bill. Talk about eating local. For those apartment dwellers out there, you have no excuse. There's a bunch of things you can grow on your windowsills, plus indoor mushroom cultivation and much more (I'll be posting soon about what more you can do in a later post).

2. Raise your own critters - Whether it be chickens or other poultry for their eggs and meat, bees for honey, rabbits for meat and fur or goats for dairy, wool and meat, many people have plenty of options for animal husbandry.

3. Make your meals from scratch - Do you think Ma bought dinner at the local fast food joint? I reckon not. Spending the extra effort making your meals from scratch will not only save you money, but will also save your arteries from the salt, fat and cholesterol laden convenience foods we tend to rely on. Take it one step further and make your own yogurt, cereal, butter, tomato sauce, jams, peanut butter, bread, pasta... the list goes on.

4. Conserve water - Indoor plumbing is a thing of the future and thinking like a pioneer will save you water. If you had to rely on all your daily water by lugging it to the house from the creek, you'd use a heckuva lot less water. So, save your warm up water from the sink and showers for other needs (like flushing the toilet) and be mindful of that running tap water.

5. Skip the heat - I know not all of you can do this, but even just turning your thermostats down lower, bundling up in sweaters, slippers and blankets will save you tons of money on your winter heating costs. Since the cost of heating oil, electricity and gas are expected to increase at least 10% this winter, think about reducing your thermostats by 10% or more to offset the increase.

6. Turn off the lights - Concentrate your activities in one main room if possible to reduce the number of lights on in the house. Does your whole family really need one light on (or more) per person? Getting together may also inspire more family interaction. Try telling stories - you'll be surprised at how interested your kids, friends and family are about your childhood. And all that huddling together will reduce your heating costs.

7. Walk instead of drive - Since most of you don't own a team of horses, walking is your best bet for getting around. Even if you don't live near town, most pioneers didn't either, and walking several miles to town was considered routine. You'll save money on gas and get the extra exercise you probably need.

8. Rise and set with the sun - Getting up early and going to bed early will not only award you with the much needed sleep that most of us don't get, but it will also save you money on your electricity and heating bills.

9. Craft your own - Sewing, knitting, quilting, soap-making, wood-working and other crafts are not only great hobbies, but are rewarding and can save you money. Plus, you can give away your hard work as gifts that will be much better appreciated than many store bought items.

10. Don't buy on credit - As Pa would say, "cash on the barrel head only"! In other words, live within your means and you will not run into financial trouble. By the same token, if you are only spending what you have you'll be less likely to be caught up in wanton consumerism and all the environmental impact it entails. So, stick to buying quality products that you absolutely need and that fit within your budget.

I don't know about you but I'm feeling a "Pioneer Week" coming on!

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

I live in an apartment in the North of Italy, and I've tried growing all sorts of things (from herbs to baby tomatoes) without much success. I can grow other non edible plants in containers with some success, so I guess I'm not the culprit!
Any suggestion on how to control pests (the main problem) and grow in a polluted environment is welcome (but maybe I'm asking too much!).
Great blog, I always start my day reading your entries!
Take care,
Chiara

knutty knitter said...

1. Herbs, peas, rhubarb, currants, apples, lettuce - not a good gardener really.

2. Hens.

3. Always have - mother made us cook Sunday dinners for a year before we went flatting.

4. Do our best.

5. Only have a one bar heater and the sun.
We are well insulated.

6. Do.

7. Limit trips and multipurpose them - bad knees!

8.Sorry. Night owl here since forever (much to mothers annoyance I haven't slept daytime since 6 months old).

9. Do all that - always have.

10.Promised Dad 30 years ago only to have one hire purchase at a time and just for big stuff and no credit otherwise. We do have some credit at present because of circumstances (lack of regular work) but will be clear of that by christmas. (when the regular work runs out again!)

We aren't little house etc yet but improving I hope.

viv in nz

Robj98168 said...

Okay but if I end up married to Mrs. Oleson or worse yet Nellie- I am going to find youa done and throttle you

Julie said...

Great tips! We're working on a lot of these things! You know, it's become such a way of life that the convenient way just seems to weird. We'd have chickens, but we're not allowed in this town unless we had 3 acres. (ridiculous!)

ruchi aka arduous said...

Ooooh Pioneer Week! I smell a November challenge.... :)

undacova mutha said...

We garden veggies and herbs, raise chickens and turkeys in the summer, cook almost everything from scratch, lots on the wood range, our grey-water goes out into a grey water field/flower garden and we heat our house w/wood alone that we cut and split ourselves, (w/ an electric saw and splitter tho!). Our house was built in the 1880s and it was never really renovated much, bits and pieces here and there, so we do kind of live like back then and I have to say, it's not always pretty...

Stephanie said...

Knitting and sewing saves money??? Say what? Not for all the knitters/sewers I know... we like to hoard our yarn and fabric. ;)

Plus, really nice yarn tends towards expensive. Though there are good wools out there that aren't very expensive. A wool sweater for $25 is a good deal.

JAM said...

I don't think raising chickens is cost effective unless you can really have a lot of chickens. We have 5, and we had to build a structure for them (though we spent far less on that than we would have buying one premade) and with food costs, our eggs are at $11 per dozen. We've had the chickens a year. Over the winter they won't lay, and we'll still have to feed them, so the costs will go back up before slowly creeping down. We hope to break even with the cost of farmers' market eggs eventually, but it's not looking too promising. Now if I had a ton of land and didn't have to fence them in, and could have 30 hens, then some economies of scale could kick in, but for a suburban household, it's a fun project but no way cost effective.

undacova mutha said...

If you insulate and use supplemental lighting, hens will lay all winter.

As for being cost effective, you have to factor in the superior taste of home raised eggs and the knowledge of exactly where your eggs came from and how ethically the chickens were cared for...

Some things are priceless.

(I have to say that I don't have hens anymore, we buy home raised eggs from a local couple ever since the varmints killed my poor hens.)

maryann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fearlesschef said...

Yay for pioneer week! I will be waiting for it with baited breath! In the meantime, I should get out my books and re-read a bit about the Ingalls to get more ideas!

maryann said...

Over the last few years we've tried to simplify things and become more self sufficient. I think we're doing pretty good and still have items on the list of things we want to do(like solar hw). I have to disagree on #10 to a point, I used to pay everything out of the checking but recently obtained a cc for 2% cash return on gas/grocery and 1% on all other purchases. It's all paid before the bill comes in, and who am I to argue about getting money back on what I'd have spent anyway. Buying things you can't afford and keeping a balance however I don't agree with. I think credit is okay if you use it properly, most people abuse it though which is where it becomes a problem.

maryann said...

I have a question for anyone with hens, hope you don't mind. I want to get 3 hens for fresh eggs but we live in a wooded area and although I haven't seen any I know there are coyotes around. I'm nervous that a chicken coop and hens will attract them to my yard. Any feedback anyone? ma3sea@yahoo.com

Lisa Sharp said...

I have always wanted to live like that. Amish are the other ones that I long to live like (without the clothes please). So simple...

Abbie said...

Even for those of us who do have a team of horses (like my family) using them for transportation on busy roads and going places like work is very unrealistic. Unless hitching posts start to reappear, and my trip to work can become an overnight trip.

But wow would that cut down on the number of trips people make and do a lot to contribute to self-sufficiency!

Abbie said...

By the way, I would absolutley love to participate in a Pioneer Week. Ever since I was a little girl I've felt like I was born 100 years too late. But now I realize that it was maybe more like 200 years too late.

Tara said...

We had a discussion about this very thing at dinner last night. The zucchini bread I froze came out soggy so I couldn't use it to go with the homemade tomato soup I made and local greens salad. I tried making my own biscuits, which came out like flavorless hockey pucks, but we ate them anyway. The pears I used for apple ad pear sauce weren't ripe enough and didn't cook down so they made sort of hard chunks in the apple-pear sauce. And the pumpkin I tried to bake and process yesterday was an absolute disaster. I imagine Ma had days like that, too but, they sure are frustrating! I told my family that if we were true pioneers they would get one thing on the table for dinner. Two if they were lucky!
I do want to keep a beehive. I made all my jam and jelly with honey this year and it was great.

Sonnjea said...

I've been calling myself a "neo-pioneer" ever since I started growing my own food and raising chickens! My friends think I'm crazy, but I definitely feel Little House on the Prairie...

As for the hens, I find mine to be cost effective. We spent very little on their coop (and you can build one for nothing if you really do the pioneer thing and use scrap lumber), and even the organic feed I use only costs me $8/month. My 3 hens lay 20 eggs a week, which is a little over 7 dozen a month. Since farmer's market eggs cost $3.50/dozen here, I've already re-cooped (sorry about the pun) the cost of their house. I even have enough eggs to share with friends and neighbors... a very neo-pioneery thing to do!

Green Bean said...

This post made me smile. With everything going on in the market and knee deep into Sharon's book, I am indeed feeling very Little House on the Prairie. Bring on Pioneer Week! I'm ready (mostly).

steplikeagiant said...

I grew up poor raised by depression era grandparents and hippie musician parents. This morning, I told my dad, who has lived on less than 10K a year the last few years, that I was eternally grateful for growing up poor, since I know how to simply make do. I know he has had guilt about not giving us more, but today, I was able to convince him that he has given me so much by teaching me how to live frugally.

Hot Belly Mama - taking it all back said...

As pa also said, "don't ever mortgage the family farm." This is one of the worst practices I see now. Some people refinance and borrow against their home yearly.

Khaki said...

Where is your chlothesline or clothesrack? I haven't owned or used an electric drier in about 20 years (and I am only 39). Someday I will try to figure out how much money I have saved by not using the electricity or buying a mechanical dryer.

Gosh, people have tried to force old dryers on me over the years...they think I am strange, and have dubbed me Laura Ingalls Wilder.

GreenOfficeBlog said...

I agree that a lot can be learned from the "olden days." I know of one person who uses the example of Amish communities to illustrate the viability of sustainable systems. I especially like the idea of rising and setting with the sun. It's so commonsense and natural.

devilish southern belle said...

Landed at your site via a search which led to your home sugaring post (about to try it; wish me luck). I loved reading these tips, and am always looking for ways to save a bit of $. Unfortunately, I don't have a whole lot of time to do some of the more time-intensive things such as raising my own critters - and my plant garden pretty much died on me despite everything I did to keep it alive. I did LOVE making meals from scratch until my stove stopped working, though!

sled dog skippy said...

Crunchy's thoughts about hauling water for Number 4, "Conserve Water" is correct--I do use a LOT less than I ever have since I have to haul my own.

I live in a small cabin in rural Alaska and I have to haul my water from my boss's house that has a pumped well/running water. My cabin is only about 100 yards away, but dang, carrying 6 gallons in each hand, each trip, down a narrow path and up steps is hard. I will say, I do have better arm muscles now!

A sustainable lifestyle is very attractive to many Alaskans--the high cost of food and goods that are obviously shipped here is too great for much of the population. Being somewhat independent typically costs less up here.

Scripter said...

I am definitely interested in learning more about growing vegetables in an apartment setting. I am always jealous when I hear about people growing their own produce:) I do not eat nearly as many vegetables as I should mostly because I am dissatisfied with the poor quality of produce in my grocery store.

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

You're a working mom so I have no idea how you fit all the things you do into your day. Taking care of your family, making your own soap, going to work all day, drying herbs and fruits, preserving foods for winter, knitting, etc. Many of these ideas I know will work, but at some point I have to say to myself, "My time is worth something." Often times I will choose to simply go without, or make due with something else, or buy the thing I need and go without something else. I really value my time that I get with my family and (this is just me speaking) I don't want to spend time doing things that only I can do (because of safety issues - like cooking on a hot stove - or because it's a one-person job, like knitting). I would rather spend time doing things that involve my kids and my husband, so we are all having fun together. Yes, I know many activities can be done together. But our family dynamic is that my husband works many nights, we have 4 kids and the youngest is just 12 months old. So, while we ARE turning off our A/C, conserving water & lights, and trying to use less gas, some things are just not going to go because it would actually make our lives harder if we had to do without.

John said...

Great blog! I like your ideas. We've been Mother Earth News subscribers for many years and gleaned many ideas from them. Hope to get some more from your blog.

Verde said...

I am so all over this one!

Anonymous said...

Not to pick nits or anything- but Pa, in the books- was often over his ears in debt to the bank. Remember? "On The Banks of Plum Creek"- they were living, free, in a sod dugout- and he mortgaged the beautiful wheat crop- to buy materials to build a (very cold) frame house- and by a reaping machine. Then they lost the wheat to the grasshoppers.

Greenpa said...

One of the reasons I called my blog "Little Blog In The Big Woods" is that we live right in Ingalls territory, within easy reach of 4 of the actual sites. So close to one, I'd almost bet Pa walked over my farm in his hunting excursions.

And, of course- we live in a little house; actually smaller than Laura's first cabin, I think.

I've been living that life for 30 some years; and it does make me a little less frightened in the current collapse- we have land and skills that will support us, and chose "simple" long ago.

What's most scary to me is wondering what all the people in cities will do- when it gets really hard.

fullfreezer said...

I do pretty well on all your points except 2 unless squirrels count :) We live in a town where there are restrictions about keeping 'livestock animals'.
We are currently looking for a house out of town with some land attached (economy willing) but that will put a crimp in 7 for me. I have been walking to work for the past 14 years but if we move I'll have to drive or carpool. J

Verde said...

Oh, Oh, I want to dress the part and wear the prarie dress too!

Sharlene said...

I am all about pioneer week. I have my bonnet ready. My dream is to live on a farm like the Ingalls. Okay, not exactly like the Ingalls but you get the point.

sealander said...

Regarding whether keeping chickens is worthwhile, I did the sums for my flock recently. Currently it costs me 30 cents a day to feed 4 laying hens (rare breeds) and one freeloading rooster on sprouted organic wheat, organic mash, and shell grit. Free range eggs cost between 50 - 70 cents each here, so I'd only have to get one egg a day to make them self funding. It's spring here now and they're producing around 20 eggs a week, so they're more than paying for themselves. You might want to also factor in things like the manure produced - normally I'd buy several sacks of this a year, and the fact that you can use them for weed control, by penning them on the appropriate area. They're good for making fast compost too - I toss most of the garden waste in their pen and it gets shredded, eaten or trampled and rots down a lot faster than it does in the compost heap. We eat a couple of egg based meals a week, so that is a couple of meals we didn't have to buy meat for, as well.

Kristen said...

I want a pioneer week! I'll definately participate in the challenge, once it comes out.

sandy said...

Well, I don't think it would be too big a stretch for me to participate in Pioneer Week....I think I am already living it and didn't know it!

We raise beef cows so know our freezer is full of organic meat. If I didn't cook ALL meals we wouldn't be eating as it's a 100 mile trip to the nearest town that serves food.

I order food once a month from a organic food warehouse and they deliver it on a truck to a stop on the nearest instate highway which only makes my grocery trip 50 miles instead of 100. Any trip to town is well thought out in advance and usually is a whirlwind of stored up stops.

We conserve water like crazy around here. We have been in an 8 year drought so every available drop went to the cattle - thank goodness this year we had that thing called rain! We have to get our drinking and cooking water from a spring fed well 5 miles away - so you sure don't waste any of that.

We live where it can get very cold (sometimes -30 degrees) but that is what I thought sweaters and quilts at night were for. We have had people drive by at night and not think we are home as there might be only one light on in the entire house. I invested in solar lighting for the exterior of my house and that was a wise choice.

On a working ranch you gets lots and lots of walking and the early risers get to enjoy a multitude of sunrises.

I sew and quilt (a new passion)although with the price of fabric I don't know if this is cost saving but still a rewarding activity.

I sure didn't anticipate this being such a long comment ......hmmmm. All in all I have a great life!

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