Permanent Purchases

Disposable products may be the norm, but they’re not the norm in my house. I like things that are made to last. Things that I can buy once and never have to replace. These permanent purchases, as I call them, save me a lot of money, and they make my life easier, too. Because things that are made well tend to work well.

Sometimes these permanent purchases cost more up front, but they more than pay for themselves over time.

Here are some of the permanent purchases that my family has made over the years:

Vintage Stove

Stove – Modern stoves are great, but with all the computer components, they can be difficult and costly to fix, so we went old school. We have a 1957 stove. The parts are easy to come by and easy to replace. When the thermostat went out a couple months ago, we spent $50 on a replacement and swapped it out ourselves.

Cast Iron Cookware

Cookware – Cast iron cookware is indestructible, and that makes it my cookware of choice. We have pieces that we bought when we got married, pieces that we inherited and still others that we’ve picked up from yard sales and thrift stores. Instead of wearing out like normal cookware, this stuff just get better with time. It’s something I’ll be able to pass on to my kids, and that they’ll be able to pass on to theirs.

Permanent Purchases

Porch Floor – When our pine porch floor reached the end of its life, we decided to replace it with Ipe (a type of Brazilian walnut). It was a lot more expensive than pine, but it won’t ever have to be replaced. That means no more lumber bills and no more labor bills. And bonus: we no longer have to paint. We just oil the floor every couple years, and it continues to look great.

Klean Kanteens

Water Bottles – Plastic water bottles wear out, stainless steel ones don’t, so we invested in several Klean Kanteen water bottles when the kids were little, and we continue to use them today. They may have a few dents in them now, but they still work great, and I can buy replacement lids for them whenever they get worn out (i.e. the kids chew up the spouts).

Cloth Napkins

Napkins and Other Things – Paper towels, toilet paper, trash bags, paper napkins, paper plates– go back just a couple generations, and these products didn’t even exist. Now, they feel like necessities to most people. And I don’t know about you, but it absolutely pains me to spend money on items that I’m just going to turn around and throw away. So I’ve done what I can to cut them out. I still buy toilet paper (that habit isn’t going anywhere); and I still buy trash bags ; but the rest of that stuff no longer makes it into my shopping cart. We use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins, wash rags instead of paper towels and real plates instead of paper plates. And you know what? Cutting out all those throw away items means I use fewer trash bags, too.

Do you try to make permanent purchases for your family? I’d love to hear about some of them.

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.

Printable Foraging Journal

Foraging Journal

Ever spotted a chestnut tree in the spring only to forget where you saw it when fall finally rolls around? I sure have. And so I decided to create a foraging journal to help me keep track of my finds.

Inside of Foraging Journal

It has a section for each month, and enough room for me to note each find, it’s location, how much I picked, when I picked it and anything else that seems important. Now I have my own month-by-month foraging guide for my area, and a few less things to remember.

Foraging Journal - Various Formats

If you’d like to create your own foraging journal, you’re welcome to use mine. There’s a full-page version, if you prefer a large format, and a half-page version, if you’d like something a bit smaller. You can slide it into a full or half-size binder, fold it and staple it pamphlet style or even bind it. There’s lots of room to customize it to fit your needs. I’ll be using a half-size binder for mine, and I made each of my kids one of the pamphlet versions, complete with a laminated cover.

Half-Page Print Instructions: The pages are designed to print double-sided. If your printer has a built-in duplexing feature (it can be set up to print on both sides of a page). Just select the duplex option and the ‘flip on short edge’ option before you hit print. This will ensure that the pages are properly oriented. If your printer doesn’t do this, or that just sounds too complicated, simply print the odd pages first. Then, reload the paper into your printer (so it’ll print on the blank side); and print the even pages.

Full-Page Print Instructions Just hit print, and you should be good to go. If you’d like a spine for your binder, just print an extra copy of the cover, and cut a strip out to slide into the side of your binder.

If you’re using Google’s Chrome browser, our printables may not print properly. Click here for printing help.

A Fishy Trade


My husband rescued this wheel from a curb pile a while back, and decided to put it in our yard sale this weekend.


Before long an older gentlemen arrived with a boat in tow. He was interested in the wheel, and asked if my husband would accept some crappie in trade. He had just gotten back from a fishing trip. I gave the nod of approval, and the man popped open the live well on his boat to reveal four crappie that were still swimming around (now that’s fresh).

Fried Fish

My husband filleted them. Then, we fried them up …

Fish Taco

and had fish tacos for dinner. And let me just say: that’s the tastiest wheel I’ve ever eaten.

Have you made any good trades lately? I’d love to hear about it.

How I Disaster-Proofed My House

How I Disaster-Proofed My House
In the 11 years that my husband and I have been homeowners, we’ve had:

  • Our neighbor’s tree fall on our house
  • Another neighbor’s tree fall on our garage
  • A sewer line back up
  • three gas leaks
  • A power surge fry our downstairs HVAC unit

So, it’s fair to say we have a bit of experience with the “what could go wrong?” side of homeownership, and because of that, we’ve taken a few extra precautionary measures to ensure that these problems (and others like it) don’t come up again. These are inexpensive fail-safes that I think everyone should implement, but unfortunately most people don’t even know they exist. So, let’s change that.

I’m going to tell you what we’ve done to protect our home, in the hopes that you’ll implement these measures in your home, and then tell your friends about them so they can do the same. Because spending a few bucks on preventatives is so much better than spending thousands on repairs.

And now, here’s what we did to diaster-proof our home. [Read more...]