The Drifter Collective


The Homesteader's Guide to Understanding Water Sources

Kacey BradleyWater is essential in any home, but it's especially crucial on a homestead. Plants and livestock need fresh water every day to grow and stay healthy. But water isn't free — a family of four in the U.S. pays an average of $70.39 in water bills each month. Luckily, when you live on a homestead, you have options for harvesting natural water sources and cutting down on your reliance to local hookups.

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How to Find Water

Thriving on a homestead is about using the natural resources available to you. Luckily, there are several sources of water you can look for and gain access to on your property.

Well Water

One option for sourcing water on your property is to build a well. A well is a hole dug deep into the ground, low enough to collect groundwater. In the U.S., 10 percent of people get their water from a private well. This water collection method can be a simple set-up where you lower a bucket with a rope and manually pull up water. But you can also build a modern well with pumps and pipes to direct water indoors.

Standing Water

Standing water is any non-moving water you see above the ground's surface, including lakes, ponds and reservoirs. Standing water might not be as useful as flowing water, as it can contain mud, algae and germs, but it can still be filtered and used on your homestead. With a lake or pond, you can easily scoop out a five-gallon bucket of water, something you can't do with moving sources as quickly. You can then use the water to flush toilets, wash animals, soak the compost and much more.

Rain Water

If you live in an area where you experience rain, consider a new method for collecting water. Rainwater is great for watering flowers and crops in your garden. It can also be a source of drinking water. Be aware that rainwater contains possible pollutants, meaning it is not safe to consume until treated. If you are looking for a potable water source, consider purifying your collected rainwater. A rain harvesting system captures water from rooftops, road surfaces, rock catchments and other areas and stores it in tanks and basins.

Flowing Water

Flowing water, also called live water, is any natural water source flowing on your property, like a spring, stream, creek or river. Since this type of water is continuously moving, it's readily accessible and quickly replenishing. Flowing water is typically cleaner than standing water as it doesn't allow algae and bacteria to build up over time. Depending on your homestead, you might be able to divert flowing water closer to your home or a pond for storage.

Collecting rainwater from natural sources is an easy way to reduce your water bill. Remember almost all collected water will need to be purified before it's safe to consume.

How to Purify Water

It's hard to know what's in collected water. Some of the most common pollutants in rainwater include nitrogen and phosphorous, which are found in fertilizer as well as pet and yard waste. Plus, during periods of heavy rainfall, certain sewage systems are designed to flow excess into nearby rivers or streams. To ensure your water safe to drink, you will need to purify it first.

Some popular ways to purify collected water include

  • Boiling
  • Filtration
  • Bleaching
  • Distillation

Boil water for one to three minutes to kill germs invisible to the naked eye. Once boiled, keep the water covered and allow it to cool before use. Similar to boiling, distillation is a technique where you heat water and collect clean vapor droplets.

Another effective way to purify water is with a filtration system, a combination of chemicals and filters designed to remove harmful particles. Or use a powerful compound like chlorine to bleach water and make it safe to consume.

Don't rely on your local water network to take care of your family and homestead. It's likely there's a water source on or near your property. Search for streams, rivers, pond and lakes — all of which you can collect water from. You can also harvest water as it falls from the sky and store it for later use. If you plan to drink, cook or bake with the water you collect, it's important to purify it beforehand to remove harmful germs and chemicals.

6 Ways to Boost Your Homestead's Energy Efficiency

Kacey BradleyThere are a lot of benefits to boosting your homestead's energy efficiency. Not only can you reduce the amount of energy you use and save money, but you can also cut back on waste and neutralize your family's carbon footprint. If you're ready to tackle your next homestead project, consider one of these six options for increasing energy efficiency.

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1. Add New Insulation

If your home is poorly insulated, you could be wasting precious money on heating and air conditioning. It's estimated that 98 million households in the U.S. are inadequately insulted, losing more than 20% of the heat generated. Reduce waste and energy usage by adding new insulation to walls and around openings like doors and windows. The most common types of insulation are loose fill, blanket and spray foam.

2. Install a Skylight

Skylights used to be costly and complex to install, but today, they are simple to add and energy efficient. Traditional skylights are similar to a window in the roof, while tubular versions harvest the sun's rays from above and direct light through up to 40 feet of highly reflective tubing. This type of skylight is leak-proof and impact-resistant while also offering a simple way to install around critical building components, like joists and rafters.

3. Invest in Windows

Energy-efficient windows are coated with low-E, designed to let light in your home without allowing heat inside. During the colder months, low-E keeps warmth from escaping into the chilly air outside. Look for windows with low air leakage, which is the amount of air that can be lost. Keep an eye out for a low U-Factor, the rate of the non-solar flow of heat through the window. Depending on where you live, energy-efficient windows could save you a lot of money.

4. Opt for Solar Panels

There has never been a better time to install solar panels. The price of solar has dropped more than 70 percent since 2010. Plus, solar panels have become much more energy conscious in the past couple of decades, increasing in efficiency from 6-40% since 1954. By adding solar power to your home, you can reduce your family's carbon footprint will also cutting your energy bill.

5. Try a Tankless Heater

If you want to conserve energy on your homestead, consider installing a tankless water heater. A tankless heater takes up very little space and uses 30-50% less energy than tank units. According to experts, this could save you $100 or more each year. This type of water heater only activates when you turn on the faucet, eliminating the cost to store 40 to 50 gallons of hot water on demand.

6. Buy New Appliances

If you have old appliances in your home, now is the time to seek energy-efficient replacements. An old dryer can consume as much energy as an efficient refrigerator, washing machine and dishwasher combined. Look for Energy Star-certified models that use 20% less electricity and can save you hundreds of dollars over the dryer's lifetime. New refrigerators, which have seen plenty of advances in the past decade, use up to 40 percent less energy than models made in 2001.

How to Improve Your Homestead's Energy Efficiency

Improving your homestead's energy efficiency doesn't have to be a complicated or lengthy process. In just a weekend, you can install a tubular skylight or replace outdated appliances. Not only will you reduce the amount of energy you use and save money, but you can also lessen your carbon footprint and waste put out into the environment. That's a win for you, your wallet and the planet.

Tips for Cleaning and Maintaining Wicker Furniture

Kacey BradleyWhether you're designing a space for your living room or patio, wicker furniture can provide a complementary addition to your home. However, to keep it good-looking and sturdy, it's vital to clean and maintain your wicker furniture properly.

Being a natural product with plant fibers and reeds woven together, wicker furniture needs specialized, time intensive care to look and operate its best. With an awareness for distinct needs and tips for proper care, you can safeguard your wicker furniture from damaging circumstances and maintain its value for years to come.

General Wicker Furniture Care

Regardless of the material or its specific use, a commitment to routine cleaning and maintenance will do wonders for the preservation and quality of your wicker furniture.

For proper care, the handling of wicker furniture is largely dependent on whether or not it's coated in resin. If it is, all-purpose cleaners can be used to remove dirty spots. If it's not, mild cleaning techniques should be applied.

Regular dustings are important to keep your wicker furniture in excellent condition and extend its life, but the use of a microfiber duster or soft cloth is recommended to gently maintain your furniture and avoid any damage. Alternatively, the brush attachment on your vacuum can be used if the suction level is kept low. For areas where dirt has accumulated that are tougher to clean, you can employ a small soft-bristled paintbrush or toothbrush.

After meticulous dusting, a cleaning cloth should be dampened with mild soap and warm water to clean the surface of your wicker furniture, giving it a crisp shine. If you're concerned about cleaning your wicker furniture to remove mildew or mold, create a mixture that's 25% white vinegar and 75% water, proceeding to scrub the surface of your wicker furniture again.

Once your wicker furniture has been cleaned with water, it's vital to give it sufficient time to thoroughly dry before using it again.

Given the sensitivity of wicker to moisture, consider using a dehumidifier if your furniture is indoors and vulnerable to high humidity. Otherwise, relocate your wicker furniture to an area in your home with good air circulation.

Having control over harmful conditions makes it easier to look after wicker furniture indoors, but if you plan to keep your furniture outdoors on a patio, additional precautions should be taken.

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Outdoor Wicker Furniture Care

Exposure to the elements can impact the durability of wicker furniture when it's kept outside, so it's important to clean it at least once every six months or more frequently if heavily used.

When cleaning with water from a hose, gently spray your wicker furniture with a mist setting. Soaking your wicker furniture with too much water will weaken the weave and harm its structural integrity, causing it to sag if any weight is placed upon it.

Although designed for outdoor use, extreme temperatures can harm wicker furniture, with cold weather making it brittle and hot weather making it elastic, resulting in premature wear if used. Likewise, whether it's rain or snow, precipitation adversely dampens wicker furniture, compromising its stability.

If wicker furniture is normally kept outside, consider bringing it inside during bad weather or secure it with an overhead shelter. Even direct sunlight can damage natural fibers, causing your wicker furniture to crack and fray, so adequate protection assures that your furniture lasts longer.

Applying Paint or Polish to Wicker Furniture

Additional protective efforts can be taken by refinishing your wicker furniture, re-hydrating it while supplying it with another layer of defense.

Apply lacquer or varnish to form a hard protective coating for your wicker furniture. As an alternative, use a waterproof sealant to preserve the furniture's durability. While working, stay away from direct sunlight and polish your furniture over a tarp.

Painted wicker should be refinished through the application of a liquid sanding product, preparing its surface for fresh paint to properly adhere. After the finishing is applied, let your wicker furniture dry for four to six days. Once it's dry, you can seal the new finish with liquid furniture wax, making sure to wipe away any clumps that may begin to form. Every couple of months, furniture polish can be reapplied to hydrate the wicker and maintain its finish.

Preserve Your Wicker Furniture With Proper Care

Wicker furniture may be more delicate than other types of furniture, especially if it's kept outside during harsh weather or subjected to high humidity levels indoors, but if it's properly cleaned and maintained, your wicker furniture will continue to look great and serve your living spaces well for an extended period of time.

7 Elements of a Modern Farmhouse Home Build

Kacey BradleyIf you're thinking of building your dream farmhouse in the country, no doubt you want to know what elements are must-haves to create that classic look. It takes more than sculpted chickens, after all, to make a house into a home. Before you consult with your architect, it pays to know to generate some ideas in advance.

Below are seven classic farmhouse features which are a must to create the look you desire. Of course, your home is your castle, so feel free to modify these ideas to create your signature style. Consider the following elements when designing your dream farmhouse.

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1. The Wraparound Porch

Anyone who has ever looked longingly at photos of farmhouses in the country can't help but be drawn to the long, wraparound porches perfect for sipping cool lemonade during the summer months. An absolute must for your own dream farmhouse is a front, back or full wraparound porch. You can paint it the traditional white or even go with a bright red color — just keep in mind, the bigger the porch, the better!

2. The Tin Roof (Not Rusted)

A metal roof offers unparalleled durability, so there's no need to worry about needing costly repairs five years down the road if you go with this option. Plus, with today's insulation, instead of an annoying din when rain hits, you'll enjoy the gentle drone of drops which lull you into a dream-filled sleep.

You don't really need to make like the B52's and build a love shack with a tin roof. Copper roofs add warm tones, and steel tones set off bright paint colors in dramatic contrast.

3. The Floor Beneath Your Feet

When it comes to farmhouse building, you can't go wrong with traditional hardwood. Not only does such flooring provide the perfect setting for a woven afghan or even a bearskin rug, but hardwood also offers a host of benefits.

Hardwood instantly enhances the value of your home as buyers pay more for hardwood floors than they would for carpet. Carpet collects pet dander and dust, so if you have pets and kids, your allergies will thank you for installing these floors. And with proper care, hardwood floors can last for generations — imagine your great-grandchildren treading the same floors you first step upon today.

4. Four Stone Walls

The Irish band Capercaillie once sang, "If it kills, I will surround myself with four stone walls." And perhaps it's fitting, as traditional Irish farmhouses often feature stone walls in the old country. Today, you can make your build easier with customizable precast concrete panels which come ready-to-assemble.

When it comes time to paint your interior, think warm, neutral tone like ecru, off-white and beige. These make the perfect backdrop for those colorful chicken sculptures you know you're dying to place everywhere, you country-chic diva, you.

5. Lots of Natural Light

Today's modern farmhouses feature lots of huge, picture windows, whether they're the bay variety or flat walls of natural light. Of course, this can mean allowing a substantial amount of heat and cold into your home without the right window covering. Still, you hardly want your farmhouse looking like a cave on sunny days.

Consider investing in window tint instead of heavy blackout curtains. Tinting insulates your window and keeps sunlight from fading fabrics on furniture as well as the wood on your floors.

6. And Iconic Lights for Nighttime

The sun does go down eventually, but luckily, interior lighting need not cost much in a farmhouse-style modern build. Start with old-fashioned gooseneck lighting for kitchens and bath — as a bonus, these are so much more flattering than overhead fluorescent lights. Add a touch of whimsy if you like with table lamps. There's nothing quite like the rustic feel of retreating to your den to read a tome by the light of an old-school bankers' lamp, for example.

7. Practicality Reigns Supreme

Most of all, keep your design practical. Open, airy kitchens with islands invite the family in to chat while prepping Sunday dinner. Open, airy breezeways connect she sheds and man caves to the main home while keeping snow and rain off your head. A mudroom allows you and the puppies to shake off the dirt, so you don't sully your floors.

Building the Modern Farmhouse of Your Dreams

With a bit of planning, it's easy to create an elegant dream modern farmhouse. By following the design elements above, you'll be welcoming yourself home in no time!

6 Tips for Planning Your Crops for the Garden and Homestead

Kacey BradleyEvery homesteader wants to make the most of their land. One way to do this is to grow a garden full of practical fruits and vegetables, food items you can use to replace trips to the grocery store. If you’re new to growing, you may be unsure where to start. Follow the guide below for helpful tips on how to plan and plant crops on your homestead.

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1. Find the Right Location

The right location for your crops is essential. You want a sunny spot, as most plants require at least six hours of direct sunlight each day to grow and thrive. The more sun your plants receive, the bigger they’ll get and the better they’ll taste. Find a place that isn’t prone to flooding during rainstorms, as excess water can kill plants. But you also want a location with some water, as dry soil can also damage plants.

2. Understand the Seasons

You won't plant all fruits and vegetables in spring and harvest them in fall. Get the most from your garden by planting at the right time.

  • Spring: Plant lettuce, arugula, carrots, beets, broccoli, cauliflower and tomatoes.
  • Summer: Plant spinach, radishes, onions, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers and okra.
  • Autumn: Plant Brussels sprouts, rutabaga, Swiss chard, kohlrabi, collards, snow peas and garlic.
  • Winter: Plant asparagus, shallots, beans, peas, potatoes, scallions and mache.

Keep in mind the growth of seasonal fruits and veggies will vary based on different regions in the U.S. Fruit that’s ripe in the South during spring may be different than what’s ripe in the Northeast.

3. Think About Spacing

Certain crops, like corn and sunflowers, will need a lot of space to grow. They can quickly overshadow smaller plants and cut off access to sunlight and essential nutrients. When deciding what to plant in your garden, separate plants into size groups, with the largest at one end and the smallest at the other. Be sure to research how far apart to plant individual seeds to avoid overcrowding.

4. Use High-Quality Soil

Gardening experts will tell you soil is everything to successful crop production. Fruits, vegetables and other plants all have specific nutrient requirements. Test a sample of your soil to get an idea of fertility and pH levels. This test will reveal which nutrient areas are inadequate, and also offer suggestions for which types of fertilizers and nutrients you can add to aid plant growth. You can also test for potentially harmful elements in your soil such as arsenic and lead.

5. Plant in Triangles

Traditional farming means planting your seeds in long, straight rows. But experts suggest you can fit more plants into a small space by planting in a triangle pattern instead. When planning your garden, consider spacing carefully, as some plants will need more room to grow than others. The best fruits and vegetables for tight spaces include lettuce, avocados, lemons, pineapples and kumquats. Overly tight spaces will stress plants, making them more susceptible to disease, prone to insect attack and less likely to produce fruit.

6. Stretch the Yield

The growing season is always variable, with the first snap of cold ready to pounce at any time. But you can extend the season for a few weeks by covering plants with mulches, clothes or row covers. You can even cover heat-loving crops like melons and peppers with blankets. If the temperature warms, remove the covers to allow for direct sunlight and airflow.

Planting Crops on Your Homestead

Whether you’re a first-timer or a homesteading pro, there are plenty of tricks you can try to get the most out of your garden. It all starts with choosing the right location and ensuring your soil is top-quality. You also need to carefully plan out how to place seeds, ensuring each plant has enough room to grow. At the end of the season, as the cold weather looms near, you can cover your crops with mulch and blankets to hold in heat and harvest for a few more weeks.

Remember, running a homesteading is a learning process. When something doesn't go right, take away a lesson on how to improve next year. Not all your growing ventures will be a success. Take each setback in stride, and instead focus on the fresh fruits and veggies you were able to grow right in your own yard.

7 Tips for Keeping Bugs out of Your Pantry Once and for All

Kacey BradleyYou’re lucky if you’ve never had a run-in with pantry pests, bugs and critters like beetles, ants and moths. They can crawl into your cabinets and hide between shelves. Or they might stow away in your store-bought goods, gaining entry to your pantries before you detect them. Luckily, these pests don’t pose any serious hazard to your or your family’s health. Plus, there are plenty of steps you can take to get rid of bugs and prevent them from coming back.

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1. Use Proper Storage

Use airtight containers to store food in your pantry, with popular options including glass, plastic and metal storage. Instead of storing cereal or rolled oats in an open box, transfer the contents to a sealed plastic container with a convenient pouring lid. Some insects are small enough to can squeeze in through tiny spaces. Your best defense is a storage solution that features an airtight seal. Mason jars are a popular alternative to traditional plastic containers because they are durable, don’t absorb odors and infinitely reusable.

2. Clean Up Crumbs

Everyone feels lazy once in a while. But a little laziness now can lead to a big pest problem later. Wipe up crumbs and spills in your home right away, including in the pantry, on the floor and on countertops. The longer the food or drink stays out, the more chance it will attract unwelcome critters like ants, cockroaches and mice. Keep a sponge by your kitchen sink to quickly clean up spills and crumbs. And use soap or a nontoxic cleaner to disinfect areas you use to prepare food.

3. Avoid Damaged Goods

Regularly cleaning your home may not be enough to keep pests at bay. Some pests come directly into your home through store-bought products. Always examine packages of dried goods for any tears or broken seals before purchasing. Even a pinhole is enough to let in an annoying pest. Look for packaged foods with no signs of damage. If you already have damaged or open items in your pantry, be sure to check for signs of infestation.

4. Check the Dates

The food you store in your pantry will likely be a mixture of both perishable and nonperishable items. Check perishables regularly, including onions and potatoes, to ensure they’re still good. When food begins to spoil, it’s more likely to attract pests into your pantry. Inspect all self-canned jars to be sure the lids remain sealed. And while non-perishables won’t rot, insects can still make their way inside and cause an infestation.

5. Set Out Bay Leaves

Bay leaves are a tasty spice that can complement any tomato-based dish. But they’re also a pest deterrent you should have in your pantry. When you place dried bay leaves on your shelves, they can ward off bugs like ants, fleas, cockroaches and moths. Bay leaves even have a leg up over commercially sold pest repellents in that they contain no harmful chemicals or toxins and are safe if children or pets accidentally ingest them.

6. Clean Up Regularly

If you find a bug in your pantry, the first step is to toss the item immediately. Be sure to take the trash outside as soon as you throw out all the infested items. Remove the rest of the food from the pantry and store it in a clean space. Sweep and vacuum all the spots around the infested area before replacing the food. Even without an infestation, you should clean your pantry every three to six months. Check expiration dates toss away old food items and wipe down shelves with soap and water.

7. Sprinkle Some Cinnamon

The scent of cinnamon will repel common household pests like ants. Sprinkle a line of cinnamon across the entry of your pantry or along your spice cabinet, and ants won’t cross it. Place a small bowl with ground cinnamon on a shelf if you don’t want to make a mess with loose spices. Or lay out cinnamon sticks along with your perishable and nonperishable items. If you don’t have real cinnamon, place a dab of cinnamon oil on a cotton ball and set in your pantry.

Follow the tips above to rid pests from your pantry and keep them out. If you find an insect or critter in your kitchen, get it outside as soon as possible and clean the affected area. Use natural deterrents like cinnamon or bay leaves to keep out ants, moths and fleas. And always clean up crumbs, spills and rotting foods, which will begin to attract bugs.

If you find you have a repeat pest problem, it’s best to call a reputable pest control professional in your area. They will know how to solve the problem over the long term, while also minimizing any possible damage.

6 Reasons Every Homestead Needs Bamboo

Kacey BradleyAre you interested in growing bamboo? While you might be wary due to tales of the plant’s tendency to take over, bamboo has many practical uses, making it essential for any homestead. Even better, it’s incredibly durable, able to grow in almost anywhere climate around the world and stays green all year.

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Take advantage of everything bamboo has to offer with the six homestead uses below.

1. Feed Your Animals

Just like humans, animals need essential vitamins and nutrients to survive. These nutrients — including proteins, carbohydrates, fats and more — are vital to healthy growth and a high-quality product, such as milk or eggs. Research has found the protein of bamboo leaves averaged nearly 13%, with a slight variation across species, making them a great forage option for your homestead livestock. Cut down a handful of bamboo poles each day to provide animals like goats, sheep and cows a constant source of healthy vegetation.

2. Feed Your Family

Bamboo isn’t just for the cows. You can peel and cook fresh bamboo shoots to make a tasty side dish for your next dinner. After cutting down enough bamboo, you will boil the pieces in rice bran, which removes the hydrocyanic acid in fresh bamboo. After, you can peel the pieces, revealing a tender interior like a raw potato or apple. Once peeled, you can keep raw bamboo shoots refrigerated in water for up to a week.

3. Use in Construction

For centuries, people across the world have used bamboo to build houses, construct roads and craft other long-lasting projects. Bamboo is lightweight, meaning you don’t need heavy tools or machinery to transport it. And it's formidable, able to endure wear similar to wood, plastic, metal and other construction materials. Start with a small project, like creating a lattice for your garden or replacing plywood. Then try something more complex, like a tiki hut or a palapa.

4. Craft New Furniture

Bamboo shoots offer convenient-sized poles to use in making furniture like bed frames, chairs and tables. One example is a bamboo coffee table, which you can make with a combination of materials found on your homestead. To start, you'll need one long shoot of bamboo — this is what you'll cut to make the frame. You'll connect the bamboo pieces by drilling holes in the legs and gluing the pieces in place, meaning no nails are required. To finish it off, find a piece of glass large enough to sit on top.

5. Ash Your Garden

It may seem like a waste to grow bamboo only to burn it. But burning bamboo for the ash can help increase the potassium, phosphorus and other minerals in your garden, providing essential elements plants need to thrive. When using bamboo ash, lightly scatter it across your garden along with the rest of your compost. This ash is also useful is keeping away bothersome pests like snails and slugs when you sprinkle it around the base of plants.

6. Warm Your Home

Bamboo grows in abundance. To keep the spread under control, you'll need to use as much new growth as possible. When you run out of projects to make, burn split bamboo in a wood stove to heat your home. Remember to split your bamboo before burning, as whole pieces of bamboo can trap in hot air and pop. Add a couple of pieces to your stove or fireplace at a time to ensure you maintain a controllable burn.

The Best Uses for Bamboo

If you don’t grow bamboo on your homestead, now is the time to start. It’s incredibly hardy and durable, used to build houses and roads. Or you can use it to make something simple, like a table or chair. When you can’t think up any more projects, burn the bamboo in your wood stove to heat the house and collect the ash to spread on your garden.







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