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How to Reduce Your Homestead's Carbon Footprint

wind-farm 

Living off the land provides plenty of advantages for your finances and health, and it equally benefits the environment. Lowering your reliance on external entities lets you gain control over how you interact with the land. You may wonder how you can improve your current strategies and shrink your homestead's carbon footprint even more. Look no further — here's how to turn your environmental impact from decent to excellent.

1. Thrifted and Homemade Clothing

Buying new outfits is fun, but producing clothes requires numerous resources. Cotton is a water-intensive crop that can deplete residential water supplies, and synthetic fibers create carbon emissions due to coal-based production methods. As the "fast fashion" trend increases, more harmful gases enter the atmosphere.

You can save money and conserve natural resources by buying clothes from thrift stores and sewing. Look for clothes made from fibers like burlap and jute when you go shopping instead of choosing synthetic polyesters or acrylics.

2. Composting Food

Composting is a great way to improve waste management techniques. It's easy to create a compost pile if you don't already have one. The main components are organic matter — like food scraps and leaf litter — and water. Remember to include items like newspapers and cardboard to create an even balance of wet and dry goods. You can fertilize your lawn without synthetic products once your compost is in good shape.

3. Renewable Energy

Gradually divesting from the energy grid is the best way to switch to renewable power. You don't have to rewire your entire electrical system to embrace renewables like solar or wind. Make a steady transition by replacing electrical elements as they need upgrading or dividing components into phases. You could try out a solar-powered backup generator to see how it runs before installing an entire array.

Wind turbines function best on rural land with free airflow — consider this energy alternative if your property fits the bill. Hydropower requires a little more work to implement, but you can achieve it if your homestead sits near running water.

4. Homegrown Meals

If you own cows or chickens, you're already making good progress with sourcing local food. Although animal products contribute to the production of methane emissions, the footprint is considerably less prominent when the goods come straight from your backyard. You don't have to ship in eggs or milk from miles away, which slashes fuel pollution. There are also fewer chances for items to spoil during shipment, limiting waste.

Shop at farmers markets or join a community-supported agriculture group to buy directly from growers. They'll receive monetary support while you get to enjoy delicious and healthy foods.

5. Recycling and Reusing

Plastic, rubber and other inorganic materials surround you. Sometimes it's hard to avoid products containing them. That doesn't have to stop you from being eco-friendly, however. Recycling and reusing are the next best options for handling inorganic waste. Composting fits into this category, but you can also take garbage to local collection centers if it's unrecyclable.

Repurposing objects for daily use can be incredibly useful. Egg cartons transform into mini-planters or jewelry holders, while an empty gum container can hold everyday objects. You can even substitute an old shower curtain as a drop cloth for craft projects.

6. Rainwater Collection

Set out a barrel the next time it rains and collect the water for use around the home or garden. If you want a more intensive method, you can install a whole-home system for treating and using water. Doing this improves your management strategy and conserves local sources. 

Consider a few factors, such as roof pitch, tank size and water application, before implementing a system. What you use the water for determines how you'll need to treat it. Fitting your rain barrel with a mesh screen will reduce the amount of debris that enters, which means you'll spend less time filtering.

Take Simple Steps to Make Your Home Sustainable

Creating an ultra-sustainable homestead is easy with some creativity and skill. You'll learn efficient ways to complete chores and do business while prioritizing environmental preservation. Without a healthy planet, there can be no homesteads — everyone plays a part in protecting natural resources.

6 Healthy Energy Consumption Tips for Off-Grid Homes

light-bulb 

Off-grid homeowners relish their independence from traditional energy providers and high utility bills. Having freedom over your power usage lets you experiment with renewables and decide which ones work best. It's still advisable to be mindful of how much electricity you consume, though. If your rates run too high, you could run out of energy and end up in the dark.

You may have battery storage and backup generators at the ready, but there are more options for managing your energy consumption. That way, you can enjoy your off-grid lifestyle without worrying about losing power.

1. Do Chores the Old-Fashioned Way

Reduce your electricity consumption through tried-and-true methods. Handwash your clothes and air-dry them instead of using laundry machines. Give the dishwasher a rest and clean the dishes in the sink a few nights a week. Whip up homecooked meals on the stove instead of using the microwave for instant foods. If you spill crumbs on the floor, pull out your dustpan and broom rather than running the vacuum.

You don't have to do these things every time you have household tasks, but a few times a month could make a significant difference in how much electricity you use.

2. Try Efficient Lighting Solutions

LED lights are miles beyond incandescents when it comes to lighting abilities and lifespans. Replacing your current bulbs will decrease the amount of lost heat and illuminate your space more efficiently. Some farmers even use these lightbulbs to help them grow crops, which can improve growth rates for your garden. You could produce plants all year long instead of waiting out the winter months.

You'll spend less money on buying replacements for blown-out lights, and you can control the brightness with preprogrammed dimming capabilities. It's a win for aesthetics, the environment and your wallet.

3. Utilize Natural Heating

Opening the windows and letting the sun in is the easiest way to warm up a room. Check the windows and doors for drafts and plug any gaps. Proper insulation is also key to keeping a comfortable home. Fixing these problem areas enables you to make the most of natural heating solutions.

If you have a fireplace, use it instead of the HVAC. Always close the flue when it isn't in use — this prevents air from escaping. This vent is much like a window or door. It brings cold air in and lets hot air out, which makes your HVAC unit work harder and consume more power.

4. Install a Solar Water Heater

A solar water heater allows you to wash clothes, take showers and cook meals with much less power consumption. They generate electricity through sunlight, which they use to heat water and transport it throughout your house. These units can be expensive to install, but the added efficiency is worth the cost. Using a sun-powered heater can cause on-grid users' energy bills to fall by 50% to 80%. You can assume the gains for off-grid homeowners are equally attractive.

5. Unplug Unused Devices

You may have a habit of leaving things plugged in when you're not using them. You're not alone — millions do it every day. Though you may not think about it, these appliances still use electricity when they're off. This phantom energy contributes to your overall power usage and depletes your battery stores faster.

Turn off lights and appliances when you leave the room, and remember to unplug them. Setting a timer lets you do so without having to remember it each night.

6. Buy DC Converters and Appliances

DC appliances don't need to use inverters, meaning they use less energy than AC ones. Inverters produce AC power continuously and use a lot of watts to do so, which increases your electricity consumption. Each inversion results in a small energy loss, adding up to major inefficiencies. By using DC-powered devices, you'll require fewer watts and receive a fuller breadth of electricity.

Revamp How You Use Power

Consuming less power is great for the environment — and clean energy is even better. You'll do yourself and the planet a favor by managing your electricity usage. Off-grid living can be a breeze with the right tools and knowledge.

5 Best Winter Wine Pairings

wine and food

When the weather outside is frightful, the only thing more delightful than a crackling fire is a hearty meal replete with perfectly paired wine. What wines work best this time of year? What dishes do they complement perfectly? 

If you're throwing a dinner party or preparing an intimate evening for you and your special someone, keep the following tips in mind. Your pairings will make you forget the howling wind outside. 

What Makes Winter Wine Pairings Different?

You might think that the only wines to serve during the winter are hearty reds. While it's true that many dishes, like roasts and stews, pair nicely with a beefier brew, you can enjoy white wine during this season, too. For example, Verdelho, a full-bodied, dry white, pairs perfectly with Chinese delivery or Asian-fusion dishes

However, wines with thicker and heavier textures pair perfectly with winter meals. In general, people gravitate toward wines you can serve at room temperature during this time of year. Some mulled and spiced wines taste best when heated, but Riesling or Moscato won't stand up to the test. You need a dark, dry red to manage the additional ingredients. 

Suggested Pairings for Wintertime Meals 

What can you whip up with winter wine pairings? Check out these meal combinations that are suited for a variety of dietary restrictions. 

Keto — Easy Sausage and Cabbage Soup with Merlot 

If you subscribe to this high-fat, low-carbohydrate meal plan, you might think alcohol is off the menu. While it's true that all drinks do contain sugar, you can enjoy a glass or two of vino on occasion. You need to exercise self-control and limit it to the occasional indulgence instead of a daily drink. Cabbage comes into season late, meaning yours will remain packed with vitamins and minerals. This recipe is the perfect comfort food to pair with wine on a frigid day. 

Vegan — Easy Thai Noodles with Albarino 

Who says winter needs to mean consuming meat? It doesn't matter if you're celebrating Meatless Monday or adhering to a cruelty-free lifestyle for environmental reasons. You can enjoy this hearty Asian dish to warm up on a cold day. Albarino is a heavier-bodied white that holds up to the spice in Thai foods. It's also not a well-known varietal, which makes you look trés sophisticated when you break it out at dinner parties. 

Gluten-Free — Harissa Chicken Traybake With Pinot Noir 

Anything baked in the oven is ideal for a cold winter's day. You can even leave the door open after retrieving your food and heat your house a bit, too. If you're avoiding gluten due to celiac disease or an intolerance, you can chow down on this dish without any worry. Pinot noir is perfect for enhancing the flavors of poultry and mushroom dishes. 

Nut-Free — Shepherd's Pie With Cabernet Savignon 

What says comfort more than shepherd's pie? You won't find any peanuts or other allergen-including legumes in this dish, but you will find tons of flavor. You don't have to top your meal with cheese — but since cabernet pairs well with both beef and cheddar, why not? 

Vegetarian — Fettucine Alfredo With Pinot Blanc 

You don't have to kill a cow to get cheese — which is lovely if you're a vegetarian. This meal will genuinely stick to your ribs after you spend hours shoveling your sidewalk. Pinot blanc is another often-overlooked white with the perfect degree of bite to stand up to such a filling dish. 

Celebrate Old Man Winter with These Fabulous Wine Pairings 

You can pair more than reds with meals in the winter. However, that doesn't mean they don't also taste fabulous. If you're unsure of what to eat and drink to warm your belly and soul, try one of the above pairings. 

Homestead Improvements: Where to Spend Your Money

farm-construction 

Are you thinking of tackling a bit of home improvement? Depending on the climate where you live, it could be the perfect time of year. What improvements give you the biggest bang for your renovation buck? 

When it comes to valuing improvements, two factors come into play. One consideration is how different upgrades improve your resale value. The other condition to explore is how much energy you can save. Tackle the following projects for maximum impact. 

1. Seal Your Windows 

When you sit by your picture window in winter, do you catch a chill? If so, it's time to caulk up your windows or look into replacing them. If you live in an older home, you may need to buy new. However, many small cracks fill in a snap with the use of caulk. To apply, cut off old caulk, and clean the area thoroughly. Tape off any areas you don't want to splatter, like your glass. 

2. Inspect and Repair Your Roof 

Twice per year, you do well to inspect your roof for any damage. While you do so, take time to seal any cracked mortar around the joints of your roof. Unrepaired leaks can lead to mold and drywall damage. Over time, water damage can severely compromise the structural integrity of your abode. 

3. Renovate Your Garage With Storage 

When you ask many homebuyers what features they appreciate, additional garage storage invariably makes the list. Many buyers have multiple toys and tools they hope to secure within. Plus, insulating your garage and upgrading your door can improve your home's energy efficiency and save you money on heating and cooling. If you live in a cold climate, it also keeps the winter weather from damaging your vehicle. 

4. Upgrade Your Appliances 

Since 1992, engineers follow Energy Star guidelines for constructing appliances to use fewer resources. If you're still using a dishwasher built during the 1980s, you're throwing away money on utility bills. Upgrading these devices beautifies your home while saving you money. You can also look for features like ice makers on refrigerators that many buyers find desirable. 

5. Paint 

A fresh coat of paint can make an old home appear new again. Plus, you can complete many painting projects in a single weekend. If you plan to paint your home's exterior, check the weather forecast. Overly cold conditions can cause clumps, while hot, sticky weather can result in runs. 

6. Spruce Up Your Landscaping 

Your landscaping serves as a welcome mat of sorts. If your trees and bushes are overgrown, your homestead will look shabby. Take the time to remove any branches overgrowing your rooftop — if they drop, they can cause significant damage. Keep bushes cut below the level of windows. Thieves look for cover when they try to break in. 

7. Redo Your Floors for the Long Haul 

If you're tired of cleaning your carpets, why not invest in a longer lasting and less labor-intensive flooring material? If you have pets, the dander sticks in the nap, causing an odor. Bacteria can accumulate, especially if you wear shoes in the house. Why not consider a quality tile or hardwood surface instead? A hardwood floor can last for generations and only needs refinishing when there is significant damage like warping. 

Spend Your Money Wisely on These Homestead Improvements 

If you want to get more bang for your buck, spend wisely on these improvements. You'll improve your home's value and your comfort level! 

Traditional Seafood Sides

shrimp-platter 

When most people say they want to live a sustainable lifestyle, they switch a few habits. They might bike to work or recycle more often, but there's always more you can do. Some people forget to look at what they eat, which is a massive part of living an eco-friendly life.

People who live and work on a farm come face-to-face with the reality of how corporations mass-produce food. It might lead you to run a sustainable farm, which gives you control over how you care for your animals and what you feed them.

lobster-preparation

What happens when you explore the world of seafood? You don't need to give up your green lifestyle to enjoy a new menu. Read about these traditional seafood sides and how they can fit your personal beliefs about living sustainably.

1. House Salad With Dressing

It's easy to pair a house salad with just about any entree you make. Buy organic produce at your local supermarket or grow the ingredients on your farm. You can also avoid plastic bottles by making your dressing with ingredients like olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Try out different recipes to see which you like best and use them the next time you serve seafood. 

2. Black Beans and Rice

Beans might not be the first food that comes to mind when you picture yourself serving seafood, but it pairs naturally with any kind of fish. Black beans and rice with a little cilantro taste fantastic with seared salmon, especially if you use a homemade glaze.

There's an ecological benefit to cooking beans, as well. They absorb nitrogen while they grow, converting it into ammonia for the plants around them. Too much nitrogen in the atmosphere creates excess amounts of ozone, which hurts the environment and makes it harder for humans to breathe. Funding the bean industry reduces this pollution and ensures you eat something sustainable.

3. Clam Chowder Soup

On cold winter nights or chilly fall afternoons, you can pair soup with seafood for a well-rounded meal. You really can't go wrong with any variety, although clam chowder is a traditional staple at seafood restaurants. 

Make a pot of clam chowder after you choose farm-harvested clams, which are sustainable because they don't depend on an ocean habitat. Traditional clam harvesting requires hydraulic dredges, which disrupt the ecosystem on the ocean floor. 

4. Mac and Cheese

If you're looking for a seafood side that will please everyone from kids to adults, you should make mac and cheese. It has a low environmental impact and tastes wonderful alongside lobster, no matter how you make it.

Whip up a homemade recipe with cheese from your farm or look for sustainable companies for your main ingredient. Pour the sauce over whatever you like for pasta, whether you prefer organic elbow noodles or spiralized zucchini.

5. Corn on the Cob

For more relaxed meals with friends and family, serve corn on the cob alongside any seafood dish. You can use different spices on the boiled cobs or fry them for an extra crunch.

Corn is mass-produced all over the world, but you can easily grow it on your farm. It's affordable to plant and retains low levels of nutrient removal after you harvest it, so you can replant on the same soil without adding chemical fertilizers.

6. Organic Veggie Fries

Fish filets might sound great with french fries, but if you don't make them at home, you're funding an industry that spends 60% of its budget on energy usage alone. Skip the carbs in white potatoes and make veggie fries instead.

A recent study found that vegetables had the least environmental impact compared to starchy foods like potatoes. Make them from the veggies on your farm, neighboring farms or an organic grocery store to minimize the environmental impact of what you make.

Think Outside the Box

Whichever traditional seafood side you choose for your next big meal, you don't have to give in to unsustainable companies or foods to make them happen. Create dishes out of produce from your farm or companies with sustainable business practices. You'll find the perfect recipe to go with your seafood and enjoy it twice as much, knowing it's good for the planet.

6 Ways to Spruce Up Your Homestead on a Budget

fixing up homestead

Wintertime is the ideal time for getting your homestead in shape. The insects have gone away, and plants have died, making landscaping chores a breeze. Frigid temperatures drive you indoors, where you naturally want to create a more pleasing environment. 

What can you do to fix up your home if you're on a tight budget? Quite a lot, as it turns out. From increasing your energy efficiency to upgrading your home's look, you can make yourself say, "there's no place like home" at the end of each day. 

1. Caulk and Weather Stripping 

Do you feel a chill when you sit near a window? If so, it's time to do some work on improving your energy efficiency. You do have to spend a small amount to purchase supplies, but you'll reap the rewards in terms of lower utility bills. Begin by doing an audit. Walk the perimeter of your home, stopping at each door and window. If you feel a chill, you need to invest in weather stripping and caulk. 

Caulk plasters over gaps in immovable objects like stationary windows, while weatherstripping protects moving parts. Both keep cold air from entering through the cracks. Put a cover over your kitchen exhaust vent to prevent leaks, and add a strip of caulk anywhere plumbing or ducts come through your walls. 

2. Clean Your Windows and Let the Sunshine in

If your windows are filthy, your home looks dingier inside and out. Now that it's easier to get behind shrubbery, etc., use this time to give all your windows a thorough cleaning. You don't have to invest in expensive cleaning products. Distilled white vinegar is cheap and readily available, and it does the job as effectively as commercial sprays. 

While you're scrubbing your windows, consider updating your coverings. Heavy curtains come in handy in urban areas, but they can give your home a gloomy appearance. Choose lighter, gauzy curtains for living areas, or apply privacy film that lets you see out without allowing passers-by to view your home's interior. 

3. Clear Your Gardens and Compost 

Do you want a glorious spring garden? Now is the time to start preparing. Trimming your bushes back to heights of no more than 2-3 feet deters thieves who seek cover to commit crimes. You can also rake out beds if the snow isn't too deep. 

Improve your eco-friendliness and save money by constructing an inexpensive compost bin, too. By collecting food scraps now, you can avoid buying fertilizer in the spring. 

4. Upgrade Your Lighting 

If you're still using incandescent light bulbs, you're throwing money away on electricity. Instead, invest in compact fluorescent or LED bulbs, which save considerable energy over older models. Does the harsh, overhead light in your kitchen bother you? You can find inexpensive LED stick-on lights to place under cabinets. These gently illuminate cookbooks, etc., while saving electricity. 

5. Insulate Your Attic and Garage 

Many people think of their attics when they plan to insulate their homes. Heat does rise, and placing a new layer here can save you considerable money.

However, many people overlook their garage. If your space is uninsulated, you make your home's HVAC system work harder every time you walk out to your car. Plus, cold temperatures can damage your vehicle, leading to costly repairs. Take the time to insulate your garage, as well. 

6. Paint 

Finally, painting costs relatively little, and you can complete the majority of projects in a single weekend. If you don't want to paint an entire room, designing an accent wall can give your living area or bedroom an inexpensive upgrade. If you're planning outdoor paint jobs, check the temperature. While overly hot conditions make paint run, it can get lumpy when it's too cold outside. Select a mild day for such endeavors. 

Spruce Up Your Homestead Without Spending a Ton 

You don't have to drop a bankroll to improve the look and comfort of your home. Take these tips to save money and increase your enjoyment of your living space today! 

6 Overlooked Parts of Farmhouse Home Design

farmhouse interior design

Farmhouse design blends the simplicity of country life with the warmth of family memories and traditions. There are different methods to capturing that farmhouse look. Some designers focus on rustic

elements while others go for simple lines and a few cozy features. Some combine modern with traditional for a modern farmhouse look.

There may be as many as six different distinct styles in farmhouse design, including a western look and cottage farmhouse vibe. Your first step is figuring out which decorating approach speaks to you. Once you know the types of elements you prefer, don't overlook these six parts of farmhouse home design to really flesh out your home's style:

1. Scaled Furnishings

You might adore the look of the giant wooden kitchen table you see in photographs, but if the layout of your kitchen doesn't have space for a large piece of furniture, your home can look overwhelmed. Take into consideration the layout and size of your rooms when picking big elements. Is there a smaller version of the table or can you have one made? On the other hand, if you have big, vast rooms, you might want to upscale the sizing or add additional pieces. 

2. Floors and Walls

Replacing your flooring is likely one of the most expensive parts of a redesign. The average cost for hardwood flooring is $7.32 per square cubic foot. You may be able to restain old wood floors for only $2.75 per square cubic foot. 

However, if you want a true farmhouse look, you need natural or natural-looking materials, such as hardwood. Carpeted areas don't have a farmhouse look to them, because carpet isn't very practical in a farm setting where people come in from working outside all day and kick off muddy boots.

Consider wood or laminate and tile that looks like wood for an instant farmhouse facelift. These materials come in a huge variety of colors, so you should be able to find something to match the rest of your design. For walls, keep things simple. Use plain tiles or tin for your backsplash and avoid gaudy colors on the walls. 

3. Fabrics

At the heart of farmhouse design is comfort and a sense of hominess. One way to accomplish this without completing replacing expensive furnishings you already have is reupholstering in fabrics that blend better with your overall look. Think muted plaid, simple colors and prints and soft materials. Before you replace furniture you have, have it cleaned and refreshed to see if it has any life left in it.

4. Artwork

Think about the art you display on your walls. A farmhouse look tends toward farm-based things, such as old signs advertising fresh eggs or a painted wooden sign advertising your farm. If you have any historical items on hand, those look great as well. Tend toward things you'd likely see on the wall at a Cracker Barrel for a more traditional look. For a western look, go with antlers, paintings of steer and old wagon wheels. 

5. Knick Knacks

Without some cute little touches, your farmhouse look can wind up looking a bit cold and sterile. Think of the little things you loved growing up when you visited your aunt and uncle on the farm or a family friend. There were likely beautiful milk pitchers with fresh cut flowers on the table or some herbs growing in a metal tray on the windowsill. These small touches are easily found in local antique stores or even at your resident Hobby Lobby store. Put your own touch on them by adding the details you most enjoy such as beautiful roses.

6. Black Accents

Since most of the colors in farmhouse design are pretty neutral (creamy whites, tans, browns and natural colors), adding a pop of black really draws attention and pulls the look together. Some people do this with accessories and others utilize the look in art, going with black letters on a white background. 

Additional Elements to Add

Once you think your farmhouse design is completed, take a step back and consider if there are any missing elements. Look for big wholes in your design, such as a bare couch that could use a throw and some pillows or a blank wall with nothing but a vast sea of white. There are so many ways you can flesh out your design and take it up a notch. You just have to pay attention to what others are doing and keep an eye out for unique accessories that pull the look together. 







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