Grit Blogs >

The Drifter Collective

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

Photo by Pixabay/fruhjahrsputz

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 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.

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.

6 Healthy Energy Consumption Tips for Off-Grid Homes


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 Steps to Winter Farm Prep

winter farm care

Running a successful farm requires dedication and planning. No plants or livestock would thrive if you didn't wake up early every day and give all your energy to your farm. No matter what sized property you have, it wouldn't give you nearly as much joy if you cared less or didn't plan for the future.

Farmers plan for each season well in advance. You may think about what you'll grow in the spring, who you'll need to hire to help harvest in the fall and what work you'll need to do to support your animals and plants under the summer sun. Winter also involves a bit of planning, which may seem strange to those new to farming. You might think you can snuggle up under a blanket after fall ends, but there's plenty to do on a winter farm.

Help your future self by reading about these five steps to winter farm prep. Once you've arranged for the upcoming cold weather, you'll know what to expect and how to plan your way around the freezing temperatures.

1. Clean Your Property

When it's warm, you spend most of your time outside. Your livestock may roam grassy hills while you weed and water your crops. It's easy to forget that your farm needs care inside your barn and other structures. A good rule of thumb is that, when the leaves start to fall from the trees, you should clean your property.

Take a good look around the inside of your barn and throw out or sell anything you don't need. Cleaning it top to bottom makes it a nicer place for your animals to wait out the winter weather and store whatever you'd typically keep outside.

Remember to clean other structures as well, like any sheds or garages. It's one less thing to distract you from your work as you go about your winter farming routine.

2. Plan Your Winter Crops

You don't need to retire your love of tending to crops just because it's cold. With a little research, you can plan your winter crops and harvest them in the spring. Kale, lettuce and carrots are just the start of what you can grow in the winter, so figure out what you'd enjoy the most and have fun while you watch them grow.

3. Can Your Recent Harvest

Many farmers use their storage areas to hold onto their fall harvest, but that's a waste of valuable space. After you've harvested all your fall crops, can them for the winter so you can take your time enjoying or selling them. You'll have extra space left over for things like fertilizer and food for your livestock.

4. Check Your Roof

The roof on your home and barn may not be something you think about often, but it handles a lot during the winter. Melting snow seeps into cracks, freezes and melts again, ripping them open even more. This process can happen on a microscopic level and lead to big holes, which is why you should consider checking your roof to ensure you catch any potential problems before you have an emergency. 

5. Reinforce Your Fences

When it gets cold outside, animals will want to head towards your barn to escape from the weather. You'll need to reinforce your fences and repair any remaining holes so that your property is protected when you need it the most. A sound barrier also holds up well against rising snowbanks, which you may deal with if you live in a snowy climate.

Consider Your Current Winter Farming Plan

How you decide to prep your farm shouldn't interfere with your current plan. Take care of what you need to do and consider efforts like studying cold weather crops and reinforcing your fences to ensure your property is ready when winter comes. Instead of waiting inside for a chance to get back to what you love, you could spend this winter out on your land.

Weather Damage: Should You Repair and/or Replace?

Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

No matter where you live, the weather has the potential to cause damage to your home and property. When you use your land to grow crops or house livestock, you likely have more than one building to care for, which makes upkeep tedious and expensive. Before you grab your toolbox and head off to fix something, take a moment to determine whether or not you should repair or replace it. Doing so will save you time and money down the line.

When to Repair

Before all else, you'll want to assess the issue. If it's a smaller problem, like a couple of broken roof tiles, you'll likely be able to quickly repair it at a low cost. Most of the time, minor damage requires a minor fix. Remember that building materials are made to last, so there's no use replacing them unless you need to.

When it comes to cutting down on costs, repairs are generally more budget-friendly. A replacement can set you back significantly, especially when it's an unexpected expense. To prevent the need for a replacement, you might want to add a few preventative measures to your home.

You should also consider the overall design of your house before you decide to replace anything. The roof is one of the key architectural features of every home. If your roof becomes damaged, you'll need to think about what a replacement means. A new roof will change the look and feel of your property, so if that's important to you, opt for a repair instead. Doing so will allow you to maintain your house's appearance and structural integrity.

When to Replace

Sometimes, the damage is too much to repair. If your property has sustained significant destruction, a replacement may be the only solution, especially if the structure in question is older and in need of a remodel. If you have multiple buildings on your land and live in an area prone to heavy rain, wind or snow, you should set aside an emergency fund for replacements. Water damage alone can cost thousands of dollars, so it's best to have the money just in case.

A replacement is generally a big commitment, but that doesn't mean it's not necessary. If the repairs you want to make will stop the issue only for a small period of time, it's probably in your best interest to choose a replacement. Doing so can save you cash down the road, as you won't have to keep repairing the damage. A replacement is also a great solution if you need a new foundation or siding anyway. It might be helpful to look at the weather damage as an opportunity for a remodel if that's something you were already considering.

It Depends on the Situation

Again, it's necessary to determine the extent of the problem before you make a decision. Minor damage is likely reparable, while significant destruction tends to merit replacement. Consult a local contractor to see what the best option is for your situation and budget. Doing so will ensure that you make the right choice for your property.

5 Quick Tips to Prepare Your Landscaping for Spring


While you may feel like Old Man Winter will never relinquish his grip, the robins will return before you know it. Now is the time for preparing your spring landscaping projects. Beautifying your home's exterior makes it more pleasant to return at the end of a long day, and it improves your property value significantly. 

What do you need to do to get ready for the coming season? While the earth renews itself after its long winter's nap, you can help it along the way. You can also create considerable curb appeal, even if you're not looking to sell. Here are some preparations you can make:

1. Perform a Thorough Cleanup 

Before you plant, you need to prepare your canvas like an artist. It's time to break out the rake and clear away the accumulated debris. Plus, leaves left lying under winter's blanket can cause snow rot disease, so quickly brush away any autumn strays. This process also aerates the soil, making it receptive to treatments. 

Then, you'll need to help any bald patches grow back by planting grass seed and using environmentally friendly weed killers to combat invasive growth. It's a wise idea to apply lawn food to give the soil and grass the nutrients it needs for a healthy growing season. 


2. Prepare Your Flower Beds 

If you want your landscaping to look professional, you'll need to get your gardens ready for planting. Believe it or not, there's more than one way to wield a hoe, so learn the most efficient technique for your needs. You can prevent the need for a weed killer later if you take care of those invasive pests manually before they grow out of control. 

Once you break up and aerate your soil, take a sample to your local center for a test. The associates can tell you what you need to add based on your unique profile. Apply organic fertilizer or compost from your home bin. Then, apply a coat of mulch to help preserve soil moisture. While you do so, inspect your landscaping drip lines. If you notice any broken parts or leaks, repair them to save on your water bill. 

3. Trim Back Overgrown Shrubbery 

Did you know neglecting your landscaping could put your family at risk? Thieves typically spend no more than 60 seconds breaking into a home, and they look for cover while they do so. If your shrubbery can conceal them as they crack open a window or door, you could face a burglary — or worse. 

Keep the plants closest to your home trimmed low enough to see over the top. Also, look skyward toward your treetops. Are large branches overhanging your roof? They could fall in a storm, causing considerable damage. If you don't have the necessary equipment to trim them yourself, hire a professional service to protect your home. 

4. Repair Decks and Patios 

It's a wise idea to inspect your decks and patios at least once per year for damage. Use a screwdriver to check for rot by probing around posts and foundation blocks. Any soft wood is suspect — call a contractor if you're unsure if you need repairs. You don't want a second-story structure to collapse when you have guests over for a barbecue. 

Also, test your railings by safely applying pressure. They should support your body weight, so repair any wobblers promptly. If you find cracked boards, you can replace them. Remain aware you may need to stain your deck afterward to make it a uniform color. 

5. Touch Up Your Paint 

When it comes to ROI, you can't do much better than paint to bolster curb appeal. Choosing the right color can raise your home's value by over $6,000. If you don't have the inclination — or budget — for a full exterior paint job, focus on your doors and shutters. Cracked, peeling shutters can result in a haunted house-like appearance. A smoky charcoal or black front door attracts buyers like a magnet — or merely creates an elegant exterior. 

Get Your Landscaping Ready for the Robin's Return with These Tips 

Your landscaping techniques can increase your home's value and bolster curb appeal. Celebrate the return of warm weather by planning your spring landscaping chores today. 

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