The Drifter Collective

Which Barn Style is Right for You?

Kacey BradleyDo you own a homestead? If so, it might be time to upgrade or replace your barn. There are several styles to choose from, each with unique qualities. Before you choose, it's essential to determine your needs. Do you plan to raise chickens with an indoor coop? Maybe you want to fill the stalls with horses and pens with pigs?


Once you have a plan for your homestead, you can determine which barn style is right for you.

Gable Barns

A gable roof barn is a popular choice due to its reasonable cost, ideal for budget-conscious homesteaders. The roof includes two panels, both slanting down from a common edge, called a ridge. These panels are supported by rafters attached to a beam. Then, depending on your budget and design preferences, the roof is covered in materials like metal, shingles, tile or wood. A gable roof uses fewer materials compared to its fancy cousin, the gambrel roof, making it more affordable.

Gambrel Barns

A gambrel barn is defined by its roof, a design with a historical origin. It was originally developed in the 1600s, when taxes were assessed against Parisians based on the number of stories facing the street. A two-story home, for example, would be costlier than one story. To combat this tax, Francois Mansart created a new type of roof that used shingles to hide a home's second story.

In the United States, gambrel roofs came into fashion in the late 1800s because they increased the internal volume of the barn. The wider slopes allowed farmers more room to stack hay, increasing handling efficiency. If your barn has a gambrel roof, it might be hundreds of years old — built during or possibly before the 1800s.

Bank Barns

If you want to cover the basics, a bank barn will offer everything you need. This design is simple and understated, a rectangle with two stories. It gets its name from barns built in the 1800s, many of which were situated against a hill, or bank. The second story of the structure extends over the first, allowing protection for livestock during cold temperatures or harsh storms. In some areas of the country, bank barn walls are constructed with quarried rock, field stones and wood.

Round Barns

If you've ever run into a round barn, the unique architecture has probably caught your eye. This design was popularized in the 1880s when farmers were learning progressive methods to improve efficiency, and round barns certainly do the trick. The shape has a greater volume-to-surface area than a traditional rectangular barn, and fewer materials to build means reduced start-up costs. Plus, the roof is self-supporting, meaning farmers can work without obstructions like poles and beams.

Tobacco Barns

Tobacco is an essential crop for many farmers, and tobacco barns provide an ideal spot to hang and dry these plants — among others. Ventilation is a must with this style. Tobacco barns often require cladding boards that open and close and ventilators that run the length of the roof. Some also include stripping and damping rooms, spaces to prep tobacco before hung to dry. A tobacco-style barn is a great option if you plan to harvest crops that need to be dried, including herbs and sunflowers.

Crib Barns

Crib barns, initially built with unchinked logs, are commonly found in the South and Mid-West, including states like Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia. The crib design is typically split in two, separated down the middle with a covered aisle or driveway. It can serve as pens for pigs and storage for feed, for example. Most crib barns do not have a hayloft up top. A crib barn can be a great shed/barn combination for a homestead, ideal for small livestock like pigs, chickens, goats and sheep.

Prairie Barns

A prairie barn, also called a Western barn, is most recognized by its peaked roof rising above the hayloft. In areas where these barns are common — like Arizona, Kansas, Nebraska, etc. — farmers are known to have vast swathes of livestock. In turn, they require a great deal of storage space for hay and feed. The extended roof provides even more room on the second story. If you're a busy homesteading family with big plans, a prairie barn could be the right option for you.

Picking the right barn style for your homestead is all about understanding your needs. What do you hope to accomplish with your operation? What resources — including space — will you need? If you plan to raise cows and horses, for example, you'll need more room than with a small herd of chickens, goats and pigs. A little research can help you design a barn that works for you.

Learn more in the History of the American Barn.

How to Make Your Knitting Eco-Friendly

Kacey BradleySummertime is here, but if you're October dreaming in August and you love to knit, no doubt you're already dreaming of fuzzy fall sweaters and ordering some new patterns. But have you ever stopped to wonder how sustainable your knitting practices are?


Knitting is all about love. It's about crafting something by hand, investing hours of your time, just to make someone else — or yourself — feel special. The act of creation shouldn't be tainted with worries about the planet we share. Here are seven tips for how to make your knitting more eco-friendly so that you can keep those positive vibes flowing through your work.

1. Pop Some Tags

If you love to thrift shop and hit yard sales, you're already on your way to becoming a more eco-friendly knitter. You can reuse yarn, even from hideous sweaters available for pennies. And that's not all. When folks have estate sales, some contain homemade wares — both for reusing and for borrowing ideas for new projects.

2. Repurpose Old Items

Looking for the perfect color of yarn? You may need to look no further than your heirloom chest or your winter storage. Chances are, you have at least one item you no longer use, and the beauty of knitting means you can undo your work and reuse. Sure, you could drive these items to Goodwill, but doing so takes gas, increasing your carbon footprint.

Create a game out of making outdated items look new. You can add length to a too-small sweater, for example, or change the sleeve length to update an old look.

3. Use Eco-Friendly Needles

Are you still using plastic knitting needles? Researchers believe that if we continue discarding plastic at current rates, there will be more of the substance than fish in the ocean by the year 2050. Instead of plastic, opt for metal knitting needles, which last almost forever if they're well cared for. Or go with bamboo knitting needles. Bamboo grows quickly, making it an eco-friendly alternative.

4. Switch to a Sustainable Yarn

Synthetic yarn uses more — you guessed it! — plastic than natural yarns. Not only that, but many synthetic yarns fail to breathe well, leading to the "freezing without it, burning up with it," sweater paradox. Cotton proves superior, but growing this crop uses a ton of water and other resources.

Instead, opt for a blended yarn consisting of 52% cotton and 48% bamboo to improve sustainability. This yarn is more eco-friendly, and it feels incredibly soft, not at all like wool, which causes some wearers to itch unbearably. Plus, bamboo is 40% more absorbent than cotton alone, meaning clothing made from the blend will whisk sweat away from the skin's surface, increasing wearer comfort.

5. Buy in Bulk

In today's world of online shopping, you can order the supplies you need for your next project with a few mouse clicks. However, if you buy by piece, you create additional shipping, which carries a heavy environmental toll. Packaging makes up excess waste, which often ends up in landfills. Shipping over long distances creates heavy-duty carbon emissions.

Plan your knitting projects for the season in advance. Doing so will help you be more productive with your craft, and it will enable you to order bulk supplies at once instead of in multiple smaller orders, cutting down on shipping.

6. Join a Swap Circle

The advent of social media has created numerous online knitting groups for sharing ideas — and materials. In fact, groups like Meetup allow knitters to connect with other crafters in their local area.

Join as many groups as you can, and make new friends. This process will improve your mental health — friendships do that — and give you a community of fellow craft enthusiasts you can swap materials with. You can even pool your money for bulk supply orders and take advantage of discounted group prices!

7. Donate to a Good Cause

Finally, you can do good with your knitting skill. Recently, an 87-year-old woman knitted 75 hats to help homeless strangers. She plans to knit more to donate to local homeless shelters.

Take a cue from her lead. Even if you lack time to knit this prolifically, crafting a few items to keep in your car, as a part of goodie bags, for homeless people you encounter can change a life. Your work of art can truly become a work of love.

Making Your Knitting Sustainable

Art and sustainability are far from strangers. With a bit of ingenuity, you, too, can make your creations more kind to this little planet of ours.

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.


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.


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.

wicker furniture set

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.


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.


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.

Live The Good Life with GRIT!

Grit JulAug 2016At GRIT, we have a tradition of respecting the land that sustains rural America. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing to GRIT through our automatic renewal savings plan. By paying now with a credit card, you save an additional $6 and get 6 issues of GRIT for only $16.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and send me one year of GRIT for just $22.95!

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters

click me