Weekend Homestead: Week 1

The kids were out on fall break last week, so we loaded a U-Haul with tools and building supplies, and headed up to our new weekend homestead to get started on the renovations. I had big hopes of getting the cabin closed in on this trip, but the weather had other plans for us. It pretty much poured the entire time we were there. So, we tweaked our plans, and we still managed to get quite a bit done. Here’s a look at our progress:

Cabin - Before

This is what the front of the cabin looked like a week ago.

Cabin - Week 1

And here’s what it looks like now, after bush hogging and the first wave of construction.

Front Door

Direct your eye to the right end of the cabin, and you’ll see that we have a new front window. But wait; that’s not all … [Read more...]

Introducing My Weekend Homestead

My husband and I have been married for 13 years, and for most of those years we’ve dreamed about owning a large property where we could spend our weekends and summers. Somewhere we could plant an orchard, a grove and a great big garden. Somewhere our kids could run around and make lots of memories. Somewhere we could hike, fish and hang out around a campfire. Somewhere that our kids could eventually bring their kids to. A magical place where time slows down and the digital world falls away.

But a dream like that? It’s a big one. And it takes a lot of time to make happen. Land is expensive, and the kind of property we were looking for doesn’t pop up every day. So, we looked at properties from time to time and continued to dream, continued to hone our wish list, as the years ticked by.

If I saw something we’d need for our future homestead at a yard sale or in a curb pile, I’d scoop it up, and haul it home. It felt good to be working towards our dream, even if it was in small ways. Over the years our basement has filled up with those finds, and I’ve shared many of them with you. The vintage stove that we bought at an estate sale for $30, the farm table that we rescued from a neighbor’s curb pile. Those were all pieces of our big dream.

And it’s a dream that’s finally taking shape. Today we are closing on a beautiful 35-acre property that is everything we wanted and more than we could have imagined. There’s still lots of hard work ahead of us, but we can’t wait to get started. Because working towards something you want, it just feels good.

Let me show you around.

Cabin - Before

The property is in an extremely rural area, and it wasn’t even developed until 2003. The first owners had electricity and phone service brought in (a major plus), and they dug a shallow well. We’ll have to dig it deeper to make it potable, but the first 48 feet are out of the way. They also built the structure that you see here. It’s a lean to that they built around a bus.

The bus was removed a couple years back, which is why you can see trees through the front windows. Or maybe I should say window openings, since someone swiped several of the windows while it was sitting vacant. Some of the roofing tin, it was stolen too.

But this 3/4 of a cabin, we consider it a major bonus. Because it’s really solidly built. We’re going to repair the weather damage and close in the back side before winter, so we have somewhere to stay right away.

Living Room Fireplace

The living room has a nice stone fireplace. I suspect the stone came from the property because there’s lots of it in the woods.

Back Wall of Living Room

And here’s the back wall of the living room that we’re going to have to close in. We plan to finish this space first, so we have somewhere to stay. Then, we’ll tackle the rest of the cabin.

Kitchen Fireplace

This is the kitchen fireplace. It shares a chimney with the living room fireplace. Both are set up for woodstoves, so we’re on the lookout for a couple cast iron stoves.


And here’s a zoomed out view of the kitchen. It has plenty of room for my farm table and a good-sized work space. They had a rainwater catchment system, which is what a lot of those pipes in the wall are for. Not sure what we’ll do with that, yet.

Back Wall of Kitchen

This is the back wall of the kitchen, or maybe I should say, the future back wall of the kitchen.

Bathroom Before

Here’s the space that the previous owners carved out for a bathroom.

Laundry Room

And I believe this area served as a laundry room. There’s part of a rainwater catchment system in place.

We plan to have a separate bathhouse, so we’ll combine the bathroom and laundry room space into a bunk room.

All told the cabin is about 850 square feet. Plenty of room for the four of us.

Back Door

Now, let’s head out the back door, so I can show you the rest of the property. (Don’t worry, I already have a door on our shopping list).

Bath House Before

The previous owners had horses, and this was their tack house. We plan to use it as our bath house.

Bath House Before - Inside

It’s a generously-sized structure, with plenty of room for two stalls and two sinks. And bonus: no one stole the windows. As you can see from all the sunlight coming through the walls, the siding wasn’t installed properly. We’ll have to take it down and reinstall it.

Since the property doesn’t have a septic system yet, we’ll be using a compost toilet and a solar shower in the short-term. Watch for another post on that.

Ridge View

The property sat empty the last two years, so it really needs to be bush hogged (we’ll take care of that this week). But it’s amazing how many native plants are on the property. We’ll have beautiful wildflower bouquets whenever we want them.

Apple Tree

I spotted this apple tree on one of our first visits.

Blackberry Briars

And there are blackberry briars EVERYWHERE. I can’t wait to see what else we discover.


The house and tack house sit up on a ridge, with a wonderful breeze. If you walk down the ridge a bit, you come to this gorgeous pond. It has cattails, lilly pads and about a million frogs. Seriously, I’ve never seen so many frogs in one place before.

Pond Closeup

The pond is spring-fed, and it’s supposed to be stocked. We took a fishing rod down there Sunday, but with all the lilly pads, our worm just sat on the surface. We’ll have to do some further investigating.

Just past the pond is a hiking trail. There are about 33 wooded acres with trails throughout.

Deer Prints

And there are lots of signs of wildlife. Some welcome.

Bobcat Print

Some less so.

Rock Formation

About a quarter-mile in, you come to this big rock formation. It looks like something that you’d find in a national park. We’ll definitely have to stick a picnic table or two here. It’s the perfect spot for a picnic.

And that’s where our dream begins.

We have lots of work ahead of us, but that’s okay. Great even. We’re lucky to be able to realize such a big dream, and even luckier to be able to do it while our kids are still at home. They’ve heard us dream about this for years, and I’m happy to be able to show them that big things really can happen. Hopefully it will inspire them to dream big, too. And the time that they spend swinging a hammer or manning a paint brush, that’ll be great for them, too. I want them to grow up with real-world skills and a sense of what can be accomplished with hard work and a positive attitude.

Friday Yard Sale Finds

Saturday yard sales are great, but Friday yard sales are better. Seriously, it’s amazing what I find at Friday sales. Antiques. Old-school kitchen items. All manner of practical stuff. And last Friday was no exception. Check out my haul:

Size 4 Yard Sale Shoes

My oldest daughter is wearing size 3 shoes now, so I’ve been on the lookout for size 4 shoes. And let me just say, they are not easy to find. I think it’s just one of those sizes that lots of kids skip. Whatever the reason, I finally hit the jackpot. All of these shoes came from one sale. Several pairs were brand new, and the rest looked like they might have been worn once. And they’re all great brands – Merrell, Gymboree, Lands End, Gap. Better still, I didn’t pay more than $3 for any of them. In fact, I got all of these shoes, plus a pile of clothes for $18. Pretty sweet deal.

Sharpie Markers

Sharpies are made in my town, so when you see them at a yard sale, it’s a good bet that they’re brand new. I scored all of these markers for $1. And when I tested them, they all worked.

Jewelry Making Supplies

Craft supplies used to be a yard sale rarity, but now it seems like I find something every week. And the prices? Let’s just say they put those 40%-off Michael’s coupons to shame. I paid $.75 a piece for these rolls of hemp twine, and the seller threw in a spool of jewelry wire and a tube of epoxy. Nice!

Food Covers

These food covers hardly ever show up at yard sales. I’ve been trying to put a set together for years. So, when I spotted this set of four, I was stoked. And the $3 asking price seemed more than fair.

Spice Rack

I dry a lot of my own spices, so I’ve been looking for some more spice bottles to store them in. This spice rack was just $2, and had nice glass bottles. Score!

Looking at these pictures makes me wish it was Friday again. I can’t wait to see what I’ll find this week.

Are Friday yard sales a big deal in your area, too? Is this just a Tennessee thing? I’d love to hear from you.

4 Kitchen Scraps You Shouldn’t Throw Away

Make better use of your kitchen scraps, and you’ll have less trash to take out and fewer groceries to buy. Here are four scraps that are worth hanging on to:

Turkey Broth

Bones – Beef bones, ham bones, chicken bones, turkey bones – they all make beautiful broth. Just throw them in your crockpot with some veggies, herbs and water, and come back later in the day to jar it up.

Vegetable Scraps

Vegggie Scraps – Drop onion, carrot and potato peels, broccoli stems, cabbage cores and carrot tops into a freezer bag, and pop it into the freezer. When the bag is full, use it to make a rich vegetable broth.

How to Make Orange Extract

Citrus Peels – Keep orange and lemon peels for their zests, dry them to add to recipes or use them to create your own extracts.

Bread Crumbs

Bread – Save bread heels, crusts and any stale bread that you may have, and use them to make your own bread crumbs. If you dry your breadcrumbs in the oven, they’ll keep for months.

Are there other kitchen scraps that you keep? I’d love to hear what they are and what you do with them.

How I Cut My Printing Costs

This is the story of how I got tired of feeling ripped off by the cost of printer ink, and finally did something about it.


HP Printer

The HP printer that I had been using for the past several years burned through cartridges quickly. The black cartridge was supposed to be good for 200 prints, and the color cartridge was supposed to be good for 165. I say “supposed to” because I don’t think I ever came close to that number when I was printing in color.

Being an ink jet printer, it was programmed to use color ink – even when printing in black and white. I would go into the printer settings every time I had something to print, and change the setting to black ink only, and every time I would be annoyed that there wasn’t a way to make that the default setting. Clearly this was all a game to use more ink, and I wasn’t winning.

Each time I printed a coupon, I would wonder if I was really saving money by doing so. A couple of the coupon sites that I frequent send coupons straight to your printer, which means those coupons were being printed with color ink. Super frustrating, and I was powerless to do anything about it.

My breaking point came when I burned through a brand new color cartridge in a single day! I was working on a couple projects at the time, but I really hadn’t printed very many pages. In that moment, it became painfully clear just how short of their 165-page claim the cartridges were coming. It was time to move on.

My Solution:

For years, I’d heard [Read more...]