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Foraging 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Gathering 

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Slow down. Look around. Go foraging.

Since the beginning of time, people have gathered wild food to feed themselves – an act known as foraging. 

Foraging is a must-know skill for homesteaders. If you know how to forage for safe edible plants and berries, you’ll be able to get needed sustenance.

Not only can it provide necessary food in survival situations, but it is also a great way to embrace locavore eating. 

Many people choose to go foraging simply because they enjoy finding safe and fun edible ingredients for creative dishes.  

Use these tips to guide you when you are ready to go foraging.

Follow the #1 Rule of Foraging

The main reason many people hesitate to go foraging is because they are scared of eating something poisonous.

This is cause for hesitation!

However, it shouldn’t prevent you from foraging; it should stop you from consuming the wrong things.

The number one rule of foraging is to never (ever ever) eat anything you are not 100% sure is safe.

When you go foraging, you do not simply pick up plants and berries and eat them. 

You do your homework first. 

[Related Read: 25+ Homestead Hacks That Will Make Life Easier]

Teacher showing a student outdoors about a plant.

Seek Guidance

The best way to learn about foraging is hands-on learning from an experienced forager who acts as a mentor.

Fortunately, it is easier than you think to find experienced foragers or classes.

For example, many local universities offer plant identification classes that are free to the public.

You can also look on MeetUp.com for local foraging groups

There is even a website database dedicated just to finding a forager near you, which is aptly named findaforager.com.

In addition, there are many YouTube channels dedicated to foraging. 

Learn How to Identify Edible Plants and Berries

Before you go foraging, you need to learn how to identify edible plants and berries. 

Start by familiarizing yourself with berries. 

According to MasterClass, “Aggregate berries (those with tightly packed clusters, like raspberries and mulberries), are 99 percent edible worldwide. Blue, black, and purple berries are around 90 percent edible (though you should consider an edibility test).”

Next, familiarize yourself with edible weeds, such as chickweed, dandelion, clover, chicory, cattail, and wild mustard.

In addition to taking a class or learning from an experienced forager, it is wise to invest in foraging books or wild edible guides that have plenty of clear photographs to use for identifying plants and berries. 

[Related Read: 12 Principles of Woodlore]

Learn How to Identify Poisonous Plants and Berries

It is just as important (possibly more important) to learn how to identify poisonous plants and berries.

While some plants, such as poison ivy, irritate the skin, others are extremely dangerous for consumption, such as holly berries.

There are some key characteristics that many poisonous plants share:

  1. Milky sap: Milky or latex sap is a substance that oozes out of a plant’s branches or stems if cracked or broken. It can cause skin irritation or other strong allergic reactions.
  2. Fine hairs and spines: Fine hairs and spines are usually an indicator that a plant has a defense mechanism to ward off predators. Most of these hairs will cause some sort of stinging or burning sensation when you touch them with bare skin.
  3. Umbrella-shaped flower clusters: Most plants with umbrella-clumping flowers have high toxicity and should be avoided.
  4. Waxy leaves: Also known as the cuticle, “wax” on leaves is a protective layer that helps plants retain water but can sometimes indicate that a certain type of greenery is a toxic plant and not safe to eat.

Again, when you go foraging, you should never consume any plants, berries, or mushrooms unless you are 100% sure they are safe to eat and not toxic. 

An older woman walking down a path in a forest carrying a basket looking for plants to forage.

Know Your Foraging Area

Where you are foraging makes a big difference.

Those foraging in the mountains will be on the lookout for different types of plants than those looking in an urban park.

Additionally, different climate zones lead to different findings.

If you know what types of plants, weeds, and berries grow in your area, it will make it easier when you go foraging. 

You may want to start by learning what poisonous plants grow in your foraging area. 

[Related Read: Five Ways to Find Water in the Wilderness]

Start with Easy-to-Identify Plants and Berries

When you want to go foraging for the first time, start with easy-to-identify edible plants.

Here are some easy-to-find wild edibles:

  • Dandelions
  • Wild onion
  • Chickweed
  • Bittercress
  • Violets
  • Clover
  • Nettles
  • Elderflowers
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Sweet chestnuts

This will help you gain confidence and prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.

Know What Areas to Avoid

When you go foraging, there are some areas you absolutely need to avoid.

For example, it’s unwise to go foraging in an area that is popular for pets to defecate.

Similarly, you want to avoid areas that may have been contaminated by chemicals, such as areas treated with pesticides or herbicides.

You should also stay away from busy roadways where exhaust, oils, and other substances from vehicles can make their way to the vegetation nearby.

Keep in mind that there are also some places where foraging is prohibited, such as protected wilderness areas.

A brown basket filled with mushrooms that have been foraged in the woods.

Bring the Right Supplies

There are a few things you should always take with you when you go foraging.

  • Cutting Tool: A cutting tool is essential. Foraging doesn’t mean ripping plants and their roots from the ground. True foraging involves cutting only what you need and leaving the rest to continue to grow. 
  • Basket or Bag: Always bring something along to carry the edible foods you find. 
  • Gloves: Some plants are prickly, and gloves will protect your hands from thorns. 
  • Field Guides: Take at least one field guide with you to help you correctly identify edible wild food. It is wise to take more than one resource. 

Take Only What You Need

Along with the number one rule of foraging (only eat what you can safely identify), there is another big rule for foragers.

Only take what you need or about a quarter of the plant. 

The Manual explains, “That way, not only can other foragers take advantage of the find and harvest some for themselves, but most importantly, the plant will be able to continue growing and thriving. You can even return to the same spot next year and harvest the same plant. You should also only take the part of the plant you plan to use; harvesting and then discarding unwanted parts of the plants is frowned upon.”

Utilize Foraging Resources

In addition to field guides and books about foraging, there are many new apps and websites that make it easy to search and identify safe plants on the go. 

  • Fallingfruit.org: A worldwide map that identifies areas for easy gleaning and foraging.
  • Wild Edibles Forage: An app with over 250 plants to help you identify wild edibles, as well as foraging recipes.
  • Forager’s Buddy: An app that allows users to mark spots where they find wild edibles.
  • Wild Berries and Herbs: An app that functions as a field guide in your hand for wild berries, fruits, and herbs in Europe and North America, as well as instructions on preparing and cooking them.
  • iNaturalist: This app was developed by the National Geographic Society and the California Academy of Sciences and allows users to connect with other foragers. You can share your findings and ask questions. 
  • PictureThis: An app that allows you to take pictures of plants and then match them to the 10,000 plants in their archive. It’s considered highly accurate.

Source link: https://survivaljack.com/2023/05/foraging-101-a-beginners-guide-to-gathering/ by Survival Jane at survivaljack.com

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Building a Wind-Powered Water Pump for Efficient Irrigation

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Embracing renewable energy on the homestead, particularly wind power, can revolutionize your irrigation system.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through designing a wind-powered water pump, a sustainable solution for your irrigation needs. By harnessing the wind, you can efficiently water your crops, reduce energy costs, and contribute to environmental conservation.

A young girl blowing on a colorful pinwheel.

The Basics of Wind-Powered Irrigation

Understanding how a wind-powered water pump works is the first step. Unlike electric pumps, these systems use the mechanical energy generated by wind turning the blades of a windmill. This motion drives a pump—usually a reciprocating piston pump—to draw water from a source like a well or pond and direct it to your irrigation system.

Choosing the Right Location:

  • Wind Assessment: Use an anemometer to measure wind speed over a period to ensure the location gets consistent wind.
  • Elevation: Higher elevations typically receive more wind. A clear, unobstructed area is crucial for maximum wind exposure.
  • Proximity: The closer your windmill is to the water source, the more efficient the water pumping will be.
  • Accessibility: Ensure the site is accessible for maintenance and repairs.

Related Read: 18 Energy-Saving Hacks for the Homestead

Selecting the Windmill:

  • Size Considerations: Larger windmills can pump more water, but require stronger winds. Assess your daily water needs for livestock, irrigation, and other tasks to determine the best size.
  • Type of Windmill: American-style, multi-blade windmills are ideal for low-to-moderate wind speeds. Plus, they are durable. For higher wind areas, consider a wind turbine-style windmill.
  • Material: Look for corrosion-resistant materials, especially if you live in a humid or salty environment.

Pump Selection:

  • Matching Pump to Windmill: The pump’s capacity should align with your windmill’s power output. A larger windmill can support a pump with a higher water output.
  • Pump Type: Reciprocating piston pumps are common and effective for various depths. For deeper wells, consider a deep-well piston pump.
  • Suction Capacity: Ensure the pump can effectively draw water from your source. The maximum suction lift for most surface pumps is about 25 feet.

Learn more about water management in our guide on Homestead Water Systems.

An old farmer connecting irrigation lines in a field.

Constructing the Wind-Powered Water Pump

Building the Tower:

  • Height: The tower should be tall enough to ensure the windmill clears nearby obstructions by at least 15 feet.
  • Materials: Use galvanized steel or treated wood for durability. The structure must be strong enough to support the windmill’s weight and withstand wind forces.
  • Foundation: A solid foundation is crucial. Concrete is commonly used to anchor the tower securely.

Installing the Windmill:

  • Assembly: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for assembling the windmill on the ground.
  • Hoisting: Use a crane or pulley system to lift the windmill onto the tower. This is often a two-person job.
  • Orientation: The windmill should freely rotate to face the wind. Check that all moving parts are well-lubricated and move smoothly.

Connecting the Pump:

  • Mechanical Connection: Connect the windmill to the pump using a rod or shaft. This transfers the rotational energy to the pump.
  • Piping: Install pipes from the pump to your water source and to the irrigation system. Use durable, weather-resistant piping.

Setting Up the Irrigation System:

  • System Type: Choose between drip irrigation, sprinklers, or soaker hoses based on your crop needs.
  • Layout: Design the irrigation layout for even water distribution. Consider the topography of your land.
  • Connection: Connect the output pipe from the pump to your irrigation system. Include a shut-off valve for control.
Large water storage tanks standing on a farm.

Maximizing Efficiency and Sustainability

Regular Maintenance:

  • Inspection Schedule: Conduct regular inspections of the windmill, tower, and pump. Look for rust, wear, and loose components.
  • Lubrication: Regularly lubricate all moving parts to ensure smooth operation.
  • Repairs: Address any issues immediately to prevent further damage.

Water Storage Solutions:

  • Storage Tank: Install a water storage tank to collect excess water. This ensures a continuous water supply during low wind periods.
  • Placement: Place the tank at a higher elevation, if possible, for gravity-fed irrigation.

Check out this guide on choosing water storage tanks.

Smart Irrigation Practices:

  • Water Conservation: Use mulching and soil moisture sensors to reduce water waste.
  • Timing: Irrigate during cooler parts of the day to minimize evaporation.
  • Monitoring: Regularly check the system for leaks or blockages.

Related Read: Gravity Fed Irrigation for Your Garden

Source link: https://survivaljack.com/2024/03/wind-powered-water-pump-irrigation/ by Survival Jack at survivaljack.com

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Homestead Automation: Work Smarter – Survival Jack

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Homesteading is a dream come true for many, but that doesn’t mean it’s simple or easy. 

For a homestead to succeed, you have to invest a lot of time and energy.

That’s why it is important to consider automating as much as possible!

When we discuss homestead automation, we’re talking about doing whatever you can to automate things that will make your life easier, cut your chore time in half, and aid you in remembering to do something.

Today, homestead automation tends to involve smart features or using the Internet of Things to control the homestead.

However, homestead automation can also mean building DIY gravity chicken feeders.

The key is building systems that help you do less, such as feeding your chickens.

But that’s not the only reason for homestead automation.

With homestead automation, you can do everything from feeding and watering your animals to irrigating your garden, controlling temperatures inside coops and greenhouses, and protecting your animals and family from predators.

Let’s look at some of the ways homestead automation can make your homestead more efficient.

Automated security spotlights turning on at the presence of a deer.

Automating Security

Security is paramount.

In addition to protecting your family and home from those who could do you harm, automated security features can also protect your animals and garden.

Here are some examples.

  • Chicken doors: An automated chicken door makes raising chickens easier. You can set a time for the door to open and close. This will make it even more difficult for predators to get to your coop during the evening hours. It will also save you time in the mornings.
  • Motion Sensors: Motion sensors around the homestead can also protect your flock from predators. In addition, you can set up automation that not only produces light but also turns on sounds (such as talk radio playing) to deter deer from eating the produce in your garden. 
  • Cameras: You can set up cameras along your homestead property to capture stills at certain times or if triggered by motion sensors. There are also some motion cameras that connect to your smartphone so you can livestream whatever has triggered the camera.
  • Timed Lights: A basic security feature every home should utilize is a timer for lights. These are extremely helpful when you travel to give off the look of someone being at home. 
Cows eating from a feed trough.

Food & Water Automation

There are many daily chores on a homestead.

Imagine if you could avoid some of these daily chores and save time with homestead automation…

One such daily chore that can be automated is feeding and watering your animals.

Rather than feeding your animals daily (or multiple times a day), you can use an automated feed and water system. 

Fortunately, there are numerous ways this can be accomplished.

For example, you can invest in a smart animal feeder that allows you to store several gallons of feed and set a digital timer to release the food at certain times.

Or you can build a DIY chicken feeder that is gravity-released. 

This doesn’t require batteries or a connection to the internet, but it still releases food as needed over the course of several days.

  • Automated Feeders: You can find high-tech app-controlled smart feeders or build your own gravity-released automated feeder. If the smart device is too much for your taste, you can build a feeder that operates with a timed release.
  • Automated Waterers: Animals must always have access to water. You can build an automated DIY chicken watering system or a gravity-released watering system. Typically, these hold several gallons of water so that you can go days without refilling.
  • Stock Tank Floats: Stock tank float valves are an old-fashioned way to automate water systems. The stock tank float controls the water level in stock tanks, troughs, and barrels. When water goes below the float, the valve opens, which allows more water to refill the trough. 

Automating Irrigation Systems

In addition to drinking water for their animals, homesteaders can automate irrigation systems to ensure their crops get the water they need. 

  • Timers for Watering Gardens:  A simple way to automate watering is to use controlled timers. Simply connect water sources/sprinklers to timers and your watering is automated.
  • Irrigation Systems: You can purchase or build an automated irrigation system for your outdoor gardens and your greenhouse, such as hose timers that work with drip irrigation. You can install a gravity-fed irrigation system. There are also smart sprinklers and smart irrigation systems available that allow you to control when you water, how much you water, and more. 
Someone using an app on their phone to turn on their lights.

Homestead Automation for Electricity

If you find yourself spending a lot of time simply turning things on and off around the homestead, you may want to consider automating some of these basic functions using smart plugs.

Smart plugs are power plugs connected to Wi-Fi that act like remote-controlled power switches

With a smart plug, you can control most basic functions using an app. For example, you can install a smart plug inside your chicken coop that allows you to turn on and off the lights as needed. 

Similarly, if you utilize plant lights indoors, you can use smart plugs to control these lights or schedule them to operate at different times. 

You can even use a smart plug to control the air or heat inside different homestead spaces (such as turning on a fan or turning on a brooder light).

Automate Temperature

Temperature is extremely important for homesteads in different areas.

A too-hot greenhouse will result in dead plants. A too-cold water dish will result in dehydration.

[Related Read: Stop Your Livestocks’ Water from Freezing]

Here are some ways you can use automation for temperature control. 

  • Coop Temperature: There are temperature sensors that you can use that will turn off heat lamps when they get too hot and turn lamps on when the temperature gets too cool.
  • Greenhouse Temperature: It is necessary to keep temperatures in greenhouses stable. With smart controls, you can receive notifications when greenhouse temperatures change. You can also automate temperature changes, such as heating up and cooling down when certain temperatures are sensed.
  • Water Dish Heater: You can automate a water heater to turn on when the outside temperature gets below freezing to ensure the water trough doesn’t ice over. 

[Related Read: 25+ Homestead Hacks That Will Make Life Easier]

Source link: https://survivaljack.com/2024/02/homestead-automation-work-smarter/ by Survival Jack at survivaljack.com

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Homestead Financial Planning for the New Year

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Homesteading offers a more free way to live. You are more self-sufficient and less dependent. But, if you don’t do any homestead financial planning, you may not feel as free as you’d like.

If you aren’t careful, your homesteading dreams could lead you into debt instead of freeing you.

The best way to avoid debt and to better your situation is to do a little homestead financial planning at the start of the new year.

Homestead financial planning includes the following steps.

A watering can laying on its side in a dilapidated garden.

Review and Reflect

Before you start making any plans for how to save or spend money in the new year, take some time to pause and reflect.

Think about this past year on the homestead.

  • What worked well? 
  • What failed? 
  • What would you like to do differently? 
  • What was too much work for too little reward? 
  • What could you improve?

Your reflection should drive your goals for the new year.

Release the Joneses

Many homesteaders started homesteading because they wanted to live differently from their peers. 

They wanted to be more self-sufficient and less attached to modern conveniences.

However, even in the homesteading world, there is a heavy dose of “keeping up with the Joneses.”

If you find yourself comparing your homestead to someone else’s, ask yourself why.

While there are certainly times when it is smart to gather ideas from other homesteaders, if you are simply dreaming of bigger and better because of someone else, you’ve missed the mark.

Accept your homestead for what it is.

Stay humble. Live within your means. Buy what you can afford. Save up. 

A chalkboard with

Set Goals

Now that you’ve reflected on the past year and know where you are financially, it’s time to set some goals.

Think about what you’d like to do on the homestead this year. 

  • Do you need to pay down debt?
  • Is there a project on your to-do that is financially possible?
  • Will you add more animals?
  • Can you plant more or try something different in the garden? 

Create a Basic Budget

Once you have some basic goals in mind, it’s time to create a budget. This is a critical step in homestead financial planning you cannot afford to overlook.

Start with making note of what comes in each month. This is your monthly income.

Then, make a note of what comes out. This includes your necessary expenses, such as utilities.

Homesteaders tend to have a few additional necessary expenses, such as additional heating and cooling for the spaces where they keep their animals. 

Start with these:

  • Household expenses
  • Groceries
  • Gardening supplies
  • Feed for animals
  • Heating/cooling
  • Water
  • Livestock

Make a list of all your necessary expenses and estimate the average cost per month. 

Your monthly income should be more than your monthly expenses.

Make Space for Savings

As long as you are bringing more in than what you are spending, there should be some money you can save each month.

Saving money is important.

Prioritize saving for emergencies. They happen – especially on the homestead.

Set aside some money each month until you have a decent emergency fund.

A homesteader prepping wood for a new project.

Prioritize and Plan for Homesteading Projects

Consider your goals for the new year.

You likely have projects you hope to complete. And most projects cost money.

Make a general list like this one:

  • Repairing structures (i.e., mending fences)
  • Improving structures (i.e., adding an automated chicken feeder)
  • Building new structures (i.e., building a barn)

Figure out the estimated cost for each project.

Then, prioritize the list according to your homestead financial plan and needs.

Everyone’s list will look different, and depending on their homestead financial plan, they will decide how to prioritize these projects differently.

Do what makes the most financial sense for you. 

Set Aside Funds for an Annual Maintenance Fund

Speaking of prioritizing projects, whether homesteaders are fixing something that is broken or building something new, there is always money being spent on maintenance.

You’ll never meet a homesteader who isn’t working on a project.

Make prioritizing your project list easier in the future by saving money monthly for maintenance.

Once you have saved enough for an emergency fund, divert savings into an annual maintenance fund. 

Monitor Spending

Anyone can create a budget, but the hard part is sticking to the budget.

However, if you want to meet your goals and build up your savings, you must monitor your spending.

This is the best way to make sure you aren’t overspending.

There are many apps available that make it easy to track spending and follow a budget, such as FarmRaise

If you discover you are coming close to overspending in certain areas or struggling to save for emergencies or annual maintenance, it’s time to look for ways to reduce costs and increase income.

A homesteader selling homegrown produce at a farmer's market.

Identify Additional Income Sources

When you sat down to make your budget for the year, you may have discovered that you are living beyond your means.

This means you are spending more than you are bringing in.

If this is the case, you need to identify additional income sources.

Fortunately, there are many ways you can make extra money on the homestead, such as selling produce from your garden.

See 30 Homestead Side Hustles for more ideas.

Reduce Costs

Unfortunately, sometimes increasing income with a side hustle isn’t enough.

It is also wise to reduce costs.

Heck, it’s always wise to look for ways to cut costs – whether you have plenty or little!

Here are a few ways to cut costs on the homestead:

  • Buy used clothing and equipment.
  • Embrace DIY. Make your own cleaning products, chicken feed, and do your own repairs.
  • Build a bartering system.
  • Look for free building materials for projects. 
  • Borrow from other homesteaders. For example, ask a friend to borrow tools or equipment.
  • Preserve food. Don’t let any food go to waste.
  • Save seeds. If you learn how to save seeds, you won’t need to spend money every growing season on new seeds.
  • Cut extras. Say goodbye to cable or other entertainment services that aren’t necessary.

Review and Adjust the Financial Plan Regularly

Don’t make the mistake of coming up with a homestead financial plan in January and never revisiting it.

Life happens, and things don’t always go as planned.

You may need to readjust your budget. 

For example, if you set a grocery budget and costs skyrocket as they have in years past, you’ll need to make some adjustments.

Your new income stream may bring in more money than anticipated, which will allow you to save more or start working on a larger homesteading project. 

Most importantly, you want to look back over your budget regularly to make sure you are still on track with meeting your goals. 

Source link: https://survivaljack.com/2024/01/homestead-financial-planning-for-the-new-year/ by Survival Jack at survivaljack.com

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