“How to Make Money Homesteading,” a Book Review

This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.com. If you make a purchase by clicking on my links, I do receive a small commission. However, I am not being paid to write this review.

I don’t even remember buying How to Make Money Homesteading: So You Can Enjoy a Secure, Self-Sufficient Life, but I opened the Kindle app on my Nook (Ha!) and it was there. I think I bought it on a whim when another blogger reviewed it. I wish I could give them credit and thank them because I found it to be a load of inspiration!

Tim Young begins his book with a quote from Seth Godin:

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”

Young then elaborates on what and how that life could be in the eyes of a homesteader. Of course there is no magical formula for how to make a living homesteading, but Young gives numerous ideas and profiles 18 homesteaders from a variety of locations, occupations, and sizes of properties, from less than one acre on up. If you are at all interested in self-sufficient living, this book will get your creative juices flowing on how to accomplish the next step in your homestead journey, whether it is anything as small as container gardening on an apartment balcony or as large as building your own herd of cattle. I do also appreciate his touch of realism and explanation of common blunders and failed homesteading scenarios.

I’ve been reading it in the quiet time I get after everyone else is asleep and the sun is setting over our little homestead. The garden is waiting for seeds, and this year, some seedlings I will get from a store.  Next year, we will be able to start our own tomatoes, peppers, and whatever else needs to be started indoors (eggplant?  I hardly know.  I have to admit Mr. Wrangler is the better gardener.)  I have a brooder box, waiting for my guinea fowl keets and heritage turkey poults I ordered.  We have plans in the works for our coops (yep, the clock is ticking on that one).  Our homestead is in its infancy.  But having read some of the profiles in the book, and especially about their early days, my confidence is bolstered that these plans will grow into something wonderful.

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Unplugging, Part 3

I believe I left you at the time of my college graduation and first “real” job.  I will spare you all the details, but just to give you an idea of my mindset, I admit there was a scene involving me driving my red pickup truck through a barren desert wasteland somewhere in Southern California on the way to my new life, with me singing along to the Dixie Chick’s “Wide Open Spaces” and bawling my eyes out.

I sweated my way through my first California summer.  The schedule was grueling. Rewarding, but grueling. Between caring for the horses, teaching lessons doing devotionals with staff and with the campers, hiking back and forth up a steep hill from the dining hall to the barn, campfires–and did I mention somehow I ended up leading worship with my guitar for the campers evening chapel time?–I only had one day off a week (sort of, if it wasn’t my turn to feed the horses) and a couple hours to spare in the afternoons.  By the end of the summer, I was spending those afternoon breaks with soon-to-be Mr. Wrangler, taking illegal trail rides into the state park land that bordered the camp property.  Shhhhh don’t tell the park rangers!  It was a wonderful way to get to know each other, though–plenty of time to talk yet with the safe buffer of the horses to fill any awkward gaps.  Here’s a pic Mr. Wrangler snapped of me on one of our date rides.

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By the time Mr. Wrangler had done his job wooing me and we were planning our life together, I practically cried with joy when he found a job as a farrier’s apprentice in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  He was excited to try living someplace new, and I was thrilled to be so near Silver Birch Ranch and within a few hours of all my friends and family in Illinois.  True to my friend’s prediction, we were married in less than a year after my college graduation.  We spent our first year and a half of our marriage in America’s Dairlyand, but Mr. Wrangler was growing dissatisfied with his job (for a very good reason, too–I’ll get to that soon).  One day he said, “Why don’t you see if you can get a horse job in Montana or something?”  I laughed.  I knew from experience how hard it was to find the “perfect” horse job, but at the time I was just working at a temp agency and teaching a few riding lessons on the side.  I did, for the very first time in my life, have my own horse!

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Wasn’t he a cutie?

However, I had bought him with the intention of training and selling him.  Really, there wasn’t anything solid tying us down in Green Bay, as much as I liked it there.

Thinking I was merely humoring Mr. Wrangler,  I hopped online to an equine job staffing board and found a listing for a job teaching horsemanship at a girls boarding school–in Montana.  I sent in my resume, had a phone interview, and before I knew it I was on a plane headed for a real interview.  I stayed in Missoula the first night there and was absolutely enchanted by it, but the real treat came the next day as I drove my tiny little rental car north into the Seeley-Swan Valley.  Snow-capped mountains, crystal lakes, majestic pines, wildlife galore–June in northwest Montana is simply breathtaking.  I saw moose and bear just driving to the school for the interview–which I nailed.  Obviously.  I was able to spend a few extra days exploring the area and hiking.  I saw waterfalls and a secluded, appropriately-named Crystal Lake in the Mission Mountain Wilderness.  Every night when I called Mr. Wrangler, I told him, “I can’t wait for you to see this.  You aren’t going to believe how beautiful it is here.  You’re going to love it.”

The wilderness was calling us!

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Meet the Dogs

First, I need to introduce Sandi to you.  She is 3/4 Queensland Heeler and 1/4 Husky.  She is 12 years old and the smartest dog I’ve ever met.  She has a lot of old dog problems, but we love her.

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Yesterday, we acquired the first of many animals to come to our homestead.  Meet Vemla (top) and Daphne (bottom).

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They are 6 weeks of Queensland Heeler adorableness.

Someday they will be watchdogs and be a part of a pack to chase critters away from our house and barn. But for now, can we say, “Awwwwww”?

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Harvesting Sunshine

Yesterday we had snow on the ground in the morning.  Today it was warm and sunny.  Ok then.

Here’s the view of our garden area, which soon will be tilled.  (I hope.)  That’s the barn in the background.

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Today, the kids and I gathered (more) dandelions to make syrup.  This was the result of our picking:

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Based on what I’ve read from various recipes, all you have to do to make dandelion syrup is pick a gazillion dandelions, rip the petals off, and cover them in water.  Boil from anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes, depending on what recipe you read.  Then allow to steep overnight.  That’s what’s going on right now.

In the morning, I will strain the liquid and measure it.  Then I will boil it with equal parts sugar until it is completely dissolved and, hopefully, thickened.  That’s about it!  Some recipes tell you to add lemon juice or spices, but that doesn’t seem to be required.  This needs to be kept in the fridge for sure.  I’ll tell you how it turns out–if it’s half as good as the dandelion jelly I still need to tell you about, it will be a success.  The jelly is like eating sunshine.

Next up is our mint/mullein scalp tea for my daughter.  Last week, I made mullein tea for my daughter’s itchy scalp, and IT HELPED.  I can’t tell you how many remedies we’ve tried for her itchy head, but the mullein tea worked.  I just poured it on after washing her hair.  Anyway, mint is also good for scalp ailments, and she asked if she could try mint tea instead since we have an abundance of mint growing near our house.  I said, why not use both?

Here are her herbs waiting for the tea pot to boil.

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And here’s mullein growing wild, just for reference.  Please note that I am NOT an herbalist or expert and I’m just learning all of this.  So don’t take my word for it.  Do some of your own research or ask a real expert before being sure you have identified a plant.

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Last, but definitely not least, we have a mystery plant growing in our garden!  I was hoping it was parsnip.  Nope, not parsnip. Rutabaga?  Nope.  (Thank goodness. Then I would feel compelled to actually prepare it.)  So, what is it?  My next guess is an overgrown radish.  What do you think this is?

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I am really hoping it is something edible, since there are a lot of them growing.

Making Almond Milk and Almond Meal Off-Grid

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Today I’m going to take a quick break from my “Unplugging” series to show you one of my little projects I managed to accomplish in one of our first couple weeks here.  First, I made almond milk according to my usual recipe:

Soak 1 cup raw almonds over night.

Blend with 4 cups water in Blendtec (this had to be done while we had the generator running–I did not run the generator just to blend my almond milk.  So I don’t think I get off-gridding points for this.)

Drain the “milk” through a cloth and save the leftover meal to dry.

Add a pinch of salt and vanilla powder, mix, and refrigerate.  Or, in my case, put the pitcher in the 37-degree basement since our fridge is not up and running.

Now, back in my “old life,” I would have put a sheet of parchment paper on a cookie sheet, spread the wet almond meal on it, and stuck it in the oven on low.  But our oven was not hooked up yet.

I briefly considered just throwing out the almond meal, but that would never do!  I didn’t know where the parchment was, but I did have a baking pan.

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So I left it on the top of the wood stove to dry.  It took quite awhile, but it was easy.  Maybe I don’t get homesteading credit for the almond MILK, but how much more homesteady can you get than cooking on a wood stove?  I folded the cloth over the meal to keep out dust, bugs, flying dog hair, etc.  I opened it up every now and then to stir the meal and break up clumps.  When it was dry, I put it in a mason jar to store.  It made a tasty addition to our pancakes a few days later.  I just substituted the almond meal for a portion of the flour, and it gave it a nice, nutty flavor.

In case you were wondering about that big pot there on the stove, that was to heat up water for baths and washing dishes.  I don’t remember if we had the plumbing working yet at this point, but if we did, there was no hot water yet.  I will tell you the entire saga of our plumbing another day–maybe I will wait until it’s more or less done… and maybe not.  I’ll surprise you.

Until next time…

—Wrangler Mama

Unplugging, Part 2

After my full year of living in the northwoods at Nicolet Bible Institute, I set off to finish my bachelor’s degree at William Woods University.  Going from the northwoods of Wisconsin to what felt to me like the deep south, but was really only Missouri, was a shock to my system.  I love my Alma mater, but I do not love Missouri.  It is beautiful, with rolling green hills and abundance of picturesque farmland.  But it is hot, and the humidity thick. William Woods has very high standards of care for its horses, and one of the rules was that we could not put our horses away if they were the least bit sweaty…  Until of course, it was so hot that they were just sweating while standing in the shade of the barn.  Snowfall is minimal in the winter there, and every time we had a storm of freezing rain, I found myself longing for deep snow, my cross-country skis, and the solitude of the forest.

My goal, upon graduation, was to find a horsemanship instructor position at a camp, dude ranch, or school in a cold climate.  I interviewed at a ranch in Minnesota, a breeding and lesson barn in Maine, a camp in Ohio (southern Ohio, definitely not far enough north for my tastes), and a camp in Southern California.  I was offered all of those jobs, except that the one in Ohio wanted me to come weeks before school was done.  I didn’t want to miss my college graduation, and the camp just didn’t quite feel right to me anyway.  I didn’t feel the job in Maine was a good fit with the personalities of the owners.  The employee quarters at the Minnesota dude ranch smelled so strongly of cigarette smoke that I could never live there for health reasons, and they only had horses for half the year..  The California job came along last, and I knew it was the right one for me, despite being in not the “right” location. I would be the director of the horsemanship program–camps all summer, trail rides all fall.  It was a Christian camp, which is where my heart truly was.  And while it was in California, it was on a mountain, so the heat would not be so intense, and I was told it did snow some in the winter.  Most importantly, I could not ignore the feeling that God was calling me there, regardless of my plans to move somewhere cold.

As graduation came closer, I was packing up my room and my roommate said to me, “I have this feeling you are going to get married next year.”  I laughed at her.  I had been determinedly single for about three years at that point, with no prospects on the horizon.

“No way.  I’m not going to date any boys from California.  I don’t want to get stuck there.”  My plan was to work at that camp for approximately two years, then start watching the Christian camp job postings online for my dream job in my dream location.  THEN I would get married and live happily ever in the middle of nowhere in a place with mild summers and long, cold, winters.

She shrugged. “I still think you are going to get married next year.”

She made this prediction a few weeks after I had briefly met my husband-to-be for the first time on a tour of the camp where we barely acknowledged each other, a few months before I would overhear him tell a friend “I am so tired of California.  I want to get out of there and try living in some REAL woods,” and almost exactly one year before our wedding day.

Until next time,

Erin, AKA Wrangler Mama

PS Thanks for taking this journey down memory lane with me.  I promise to go back and add some photos as I find our old albums and get all my technology set up again.

Unplugging, Part 1

It’s only fitting that I am writing this part of the story from my childhood home in suburban Chicago.  I have not been back for five years, and it’s more urbanized than ever, of course.  I remember the last of the cornfields in the area disappering when I was a small child, and waching the cows in the field out the window of our pediatrician’s office (those are also long gone).  I used to ask my mom if we could move to “the country” where we could have horses.  When we visited family in Arizona, I spent hours petting and talking to their horses.  While our little suburban haven had many advantages, I never felt like it was where I belonged.  Yet as I visit with dear old friends here, they still look at my quizzically and ask “Why the UP?”  I don’t think I explain things well in person at all, and I don’t think I’m able to provide very good answers other than we were looking for a lot of affordable land.  I’m tempted to just start answering that question with “Clearly, my husband and I are mentally unbalanced.”

So how did we end up there?  Going back to my yearning for rural life, as a young teen I learned to ride horses at YMCA summer camp.  When I became too old for that, through a series of providential circumstances, I ended up volutneering at the barn at Silver Birch Ranch, a Christian camp in Wisconsin.  There, I fell in love, first with the northwoods, and secondly–more importantly–with Jesus.  Camp became a spiritual home of sorts, and as I learned about Jesus, I became more enamoured with a simpler lifestyle in the woods.  Halfway through my college education, I decided to transfer universities and take a year off in between to attend camp’s one-year Bible program, Nicolet Bible Institute.  I am still deeply grateful for the grounding Bible education I recieved there, learning lessons far more important than anything I learned at “regular” college. My first northwoods winter was a new adventure, complete with cross country skiing, snowshoeing, seeing northern lights for the first time, leading trail rides bareback through snow-covered forest, and taking a couple trips up to visit a friend’s family in the UP.  I remember riding along the highway in the passenger seat of my friend’s car, gazing up at the snow banked high on the side of the road, creating a tunnel of snow.  My friend informed me that sometimes they had to push the tops of the embankments over off into the woods so the snow wouldn’t fall back into the street.  I had never seen so much snow in my life, and I loved it.  I do remember thinking, “I could just stay here forever”  though it would be many years before that thought would come to fruition.

Until next time…

—Erin

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