All posts by Melissa

Saving Money on the homestead

If you were to ask a random group of people “what are the two things of which you wish you had more?”  my guess is that most people would say time and money.  In my last post I discussed some of the things I do to help manage my time on a daily basis.  In this post I want to share some of the things I do to save money and live a little more frugally.

I don’t have a clothes dryer.   I dry all of our laundry outside on a clothes line.   If weather is bad then I hang laundry on drying racks in one of the bathrooms and on the shower curtain rod.  This saves us money on electricity each month.

Menu planning.  Wednesday is my meal planning day.  I take an inventory of what is in the pantry then I sit down with a calender, pen, paper and my tablet to make out menus for the week using what we already have in stock.  This helps in a couple of ways.  I am using what we have on hand so nothing goes bad before it gets used.  Tossing food out because it has spoiled before it was used is like tossing the money spent on the food into the garbage.  Also, some weeks I don’t have to make a trip to the store at all because I already have everything I need.  If you do an online search you will find many free templates to help get you started with meal planning and saving on groceries.

We eat leftovers!  Not much needs to be said here except that we take leftovers to work for lunch or have them as a quick dinner on extra busy nights.  They sometimes get frozen for another meal.  We love leftovers!

Make my own cleaning products.  From window cleaner to laundry detergent, I make most of what we need for cleaning.  By keeping just a few basic items on hand you can very easily whip up  what you need.  I keep white vinegar, baking soda, Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds, isopropyl alchohol and essential oils on hand for my recipes.  I also keep washing soda, borax and Dr. Bronner’s bar soap for making laundry detergent.  Recipes for these products abound on the internet.

We cut our own hair.  Yes, you read that right.  I save a ton of money by giving myself a basic layered cut every so often.  I learned from a video I saw online.  I also give myself manicures and pedicures.  I will admit that they don’t always look as nice as they do when someone else does them but they are good enough and I love the money I save!  John cuts his own hair with a shaver and I touch up the back for him.

I shop second hand and outlet stores for clothes.  One of my favorite past times is going shopping at the Salvation Army.  I have found many brand name items of clothing in excellent condition to add to my wardrobe.  And since I have basic sewing skills, I am able to do alterations if I find an item that I love that does not quite fit just right.  I also shop the local outlets for end of season sales on shoes and clothes.  One of my favorite stores marks down their clothing to $5 an item.  I am able to add new items to next season’s wardrobe for a great price.  I also make sure that I get as much use out of my clothes as possible before they are sent to the rag box.

Utilize the local library.  The local library is one of my favorite places.   As with all libraries I can check out books, movies and music for free.  If the town library does not have what I am looking for they can request it be sent from another library for me.  And sometimes I just go there to sit in the quiet, read and unwind.  It’s like a free mini vacation for me.

Car pool.  John and I are blessed to work only about a mile from each other.  And our schedules are similar.  That makes car pooling a no brainer for us.  John drops me off in the morning and picks me up in the late afternoon.  On days that I get off early I will drop him at work first then use the extra time run errands before I have to pick him up in the afternoon.  We save a good bit in gas this way.

Using a bike in town.  Another way I try to save on gas  is to use my bike to run errands in our little town.   If I have to go to the pharmacy, library or even to get a few items from the store I can hop on my bike, get some exercise and save gas while running an errand.  John even purchased  panniers (bags) for my bike to make transporting items easier.

There are many places online where you can go to get more information and ideas on how to save money.  One of the blogs I follow is  She is not a homesteader but she does an amazing job caring for her family of 10 and keeping her household running on one salary.  I get a lot of inspiration from reading her blog.  I recommend checking it out.

I am always looking for ways to stretch our money further and welcome any ideas or tips that you folks might have to share.

SIDE NOTE: as I write this I occurs to me that each actvity I’ve listed could actually be post in itself.  So I think I will try to address each in more detail in the coming weeks.


Time Management on the homestead

I am routinely asked how I do everything that I do.  Well, it can be a challenge, that’s for sure!  Time management is something I find difficult.  Working full time away from the house while trying to do some homesteading fills my days and sometimes I get overwhelmed.  It is necessary that I continue to work outside the home at this time in order for us to reach our goals.  Someday I hope to be able to be at home more but until then I need to allocate my time wisely.  These are a few things I’ve found helpful in keeping my sanity and getting done what needs to be done.

  • Have realistic expectations.
    I try to be kind to myself.  I’ve come to understand that I can’t do it all and it’s OK.   There was a time not so long ago that I would beat myself up for not doing as much as I thought I should be able too.  For instance, we have a fairly large garden but there is still yard space to spare.  I had aspirations of digging up the rest to plant more food.  That would be awesome!  But, the more I thought about it the more I came to the realization that I did not have the time to take care of more garden space.  Sure, we could get everything planted but it wouldn’t be long until we were swimming in weeds.  We could potentially loose what we worked so hard for because we didn’t have the time to tend it.  And even if we did I probably would not have the time to preserve it all anyway.  It’s better to have a garden the size that John and I both can handle and have success then to become frustrated due to unrealistic expectations.
  • Create a schedule.
    In addition to working my day job and completing my homestead chores (gardening, food preservation, chicken tending, etc…) I also have the activities that come along with daily household management.  There is still house cleaning, grocery shopping, meal preparation, laundry and numerous other jobs needing attention.  I found that by making a schedule of “chores”, both homestead and daily household,  I can at least keep my head above water.  Everyone’s schedule will look different.  Mine even looks different depending on the time of year.  In general I have a list of things that need to be done each morning like make breakfast, pack lunches and wash breakfast dishes.  Each evening I know that I will be making dinner, making lunches for the next day and putting them in the fridge, cleaning the kitchen, meal prep for the next night if needed and washing a load of laundry.  I  add in time in the garden during the season and my chicken duties each night too.  I broke my house down into cleaning zones.  I work on a different zone each week and spend 15-20 minutes each night Monday-Friday, cleaning that zone.  Last week my cleaning zone was the kitchen, so I did those tasks that don’t need to be done daily like cleaning the oven or wiping down and organizing the cabinets.  I have a list of jobs to be done in each zone that I follow.  Then I add in one or two other jobs each day.  Monday night I work on making gifts for upcoming birthdays, holidays, baby showers or whatever occasion that calls for a gift.  Wednesday night is menu planning and Thursday is grocery shopping.  This might all sound complicated but once it was in place it was extremely helpful.  I used the plan over at to get me started.  She’s awesome!
  • Ditch the Cable or Satellite.  TV is a huge time waster! Giving up satellite was a bit hard for us at first.  We’ve been without for a few years now.  We use a Roku to stream Netflix, Amazon, the History Channel, PBS, and many other channels.  Some are free and some are pay.   And during football season we can watch our Ravens play thanks to the digital antenna that John installed in the attic.  So we can pick up the local station and watch the games.  The one thing we got into the bad habit of doing was watching YouTube videos.  That can suck as much or even more time!  Now we try to limit our YouTube viewing to a few short videos each night.  There are some we save and watch them all at one time on the weekend.  We also watch a movie once a week, usually on Saturday night.
  • Try to create more time. 
    I know that we all have the same 24 hours in our day that we can use.  Figure in time for getting ready for work, traveling to and from work, the 8 hours spent at work, the 6-8 hours (more or less) for sleeping, that doesn’t always leave for a lot of time to do what needs to be done.  Thankfully, I have been with my employer for long enough that I get 4 weeks a year for vacation and personal/sick time. We rarely take vacation since we are trying to become debt free ASAP and then save for our place in the country.   I choose to use my vacation time at home to work on projects, work in the garden or work on food preservation. In addition, I have a half day off every week which allows me to run errands that might get otherwise delayed or neglected.  We are also grateful that John is off during the summer months.  This allows him to get his big projects completed as well as to help me.  Which brings me to my next point.
  • Understand that it takes both of you. 
    If you are married or homesteading with a friend you will not be able to get everything done if you don’t help each other.  If John did not help with the weeding and garden prep I would be so overwhelmed that gardening would not be fun.  In turn, if he is working on a project and needs an item unexpectedly, he will order it online and I will swing by and pick it up from the store on my way home.
  • Prioritize.
    This is the time of year when the garden is going gang busters, produce needs to be put up, and the fall garden needs planted.  These things take priority.  Growing and preserving our food for winter is first and foremost. When we had our fireplace and heated with wood, firewood was a priority.  So if my linen closet has to wait until fall or winter to before I can re-organize it, or the oven had to wait several days longer to be cleaned, so be it.  I can live with that.  Food and heat are priority.
  • Take a day to rest.
    I know this might sound crazy.  Here I am complaining about not having enough time and now I’m suggesting that you take a day to rest?  Yes, I am!  You can do a google search and find numerous articles advocating a day of rest.  We all need to take time to recharge each week.  God felt that it was so important that He create the Sabbath and commanded us to remember it and keep it Holy.  John and I do not do any work for money or around the house from sundown Friday night to sundown Saturday night.  We are working so hard all week that we so look forward to that time for resting, recharging and spending time together and with God.  In fact, I think that because we do honor this time God has created and commanded us to set aside that we are able to accomplish as much as we do every day.  Give it a try!

If you have been feeling overwhelmed I encourage you to try some of the things that helped me.  This is not an exhaustive list of time saving tips by any means but it’s a good place to start.  What time saving tips do you have that you’d like to share?  I’d love to hear them!

Homestead Happenings for the week of September 5, 2016

If you recall from my last post my goal was to post what’s happening in our little corner of suburbia on a weekly basis.  Well, that plan was very quickly side tracked!  Dutch’s recovery demanded more of John’s and my time than I anticipated and, of course, he has been our priority for the past 3 weeks.  Thanks for understanding and I hope to get back on track with regular posts starting today.

As I mentioned, a great deal of our time has been spent caring for our boy, Dutch. He’s coming along nicely, by the way! We took him for his therapy consult just about 4 weeks ago.   He was very apprehensive at first but once Daddy showed (John met us at the vet’s office after work) up he calmed right down.  He allowed the physical therapist to do a laser treatment and passive range of motion exercises with no trouble. Although I will have to say that he was more than ready to go home after the appointment was finished.  The PT showed us how to do the passive range of motion at home and gave us a list of additional exercises that we can start adding gradually.  I call her every Friday to see which ones we can add in the next week.  John and I are both grateful that she is so willing to talk us through the PT therefore allowing us to do it at home.  He is more relaxed at home and lets us do what we need to do and it keeps the expenses down for us.   Of course there are always special, yummy, treats involved.  Besides the exercises we need to take him for 10 minute leash walks 3-5 times a day.

First day home from the hospital.
First day home from the hospital.

He goes back to the surgeon in about 4 weeks for his 8 week post-op x-rays.  If they see significant healing on the films then it is possible that he will be allowed off leash and back to regular activity.  We are praying for this to be the case.  Otherwise it might mean another 4 weeks on leash.  Poor boy, he’s doing really well but I know he’s getting a bit stir crazy.  He so wants to be out there chasing rabbits and he doesn’t understand why he can’t.  We have been able to get some homesteading jobs completed while caring for Dutch.  Here’s what we’ve done the past few weeks:

  • I started harvesting and processing tomatoes.  I only planted half the number of plants that I normally do and I turned out to be sorry for that decision.  We will get enough from our garden for spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce and salsa. But, I had to purchase a half bushel of Roma’s from the local farmer for our tomato soup and pizza sauce.                                     2016-09-06 18.54.44 Tomatoes
  • So far we’ve canned 4 & 1/2 quarts of soup, 10 jars (half-pint) of pizza sauce and 5 pints of salsa

.2016-09-06 18.52.02 Tomato Soup

2016-09-06 18.53.00 Pizza Sauce

  • In the last post I showed you the cucumbers that were sitting in the pickling brine in the crock.  We ended up with 5 quarts and I started another batch which gave us 3 more quarts.  I also made a jar of sweet brine, the gherkin pickle recipe brine from the Ball Blue Book.  I put the last of the small cucumbers in the brine and, since there were not enough to water bath can, I put the jar in the fridge to pickle.  They were fantastic and John’s already eaten them all!
  • I also saved hundreds of cucumber seeds to plant next year.
  • I made laundry soap powder. (YouTube video coming soon!)
  • I attempted to ferment our beets but that didn’t go so good. They never started to do that bubbling thing that fermented foods are supposed to do.  So I ended up rinsing them and putting them in freezer bags to pickle later.  Then, I read that beets don’t always have that bubbling action and it’s ok.  They will still be fine.  Should have read about that earlier I guess.  I may have been doing it right after all.   I’ll try again next year.
  • Started some garden clean up and preparing for some fall planting.  I’ve not gotten very far with that quite honestly.  It’s been so incredibly hot here that I can only do a little at a time after the sun sets.  It’s supposed to start cooling down next week so I hope to get more accomplished out there.  I need to get the lettuce and spinach planted at the very least.
  • John installed some new lights under the kitchen cabinets for me.  He did a great job and they make a big difference.

Here’s what I hope to accomplish this week:

  • can tomato and spaghetti sauce
  • make bagels and muffins to freeze for breakfasts
  • make a sour dough starter
  • start a ginger bug for ginger beer
  • clean up the herb garden
  • continue garden clean up and fall planting
  • finish a knitting project for a gift I’m making
  • continue to help John care for and rehab Dutch

I’ll check in next week to let you know what we’ve actually accomplished and what we hope to finish up the coming week.

Hope it’s a good one for you all and that you get a lot done!  Let me know by posting a comment below!

Homestead Happenings for the Week of August 7, 2016

Welcome to our new feature on the StoneHouse Homestead blog.  We will be posting a  weekly update of the “goings on” here and plans for the coming week.  Hopefully this will give you a better idea of what our daily life is like on our little homestead in suburbia.

The first part of the week started with digging the potatoes.  In previous years I had always purchased seed potatoes from the local Southern States Co-op.  Everything I had read about planting potatoes said to always use certified disease free seed potatoes.  The articles warned about the horrors of using potatoes left over from the previous year.  Those potatoes could harbor disease that had the potential of devastating the potato crop.  All the hard work of planting and caring for them would be for naught.  Well, I worked up the courage this year to try using left over from last year and you know what?  We had the best crop ever!  Both Red Pontiac and Kennebec varieties did beautifully with no signs of disease or insect damage!  So we got free potatoes this year!  Now, I can’t say that we will always have that kind of success, or never have issues with disease or insect damage, but I’m willing to take the chance and try it again next year.


Some other things we accomplished:

  • Pulled up the first planting of green beans and hung them to dry for seeds
    bean bushes drying on the garden fence
    bean bushes drying on the garden fence

    dry bean pods ready for seed harvest. These will be planted next year.
    dry bean pods ready for seed harvest. These will be planted next year.
  • John prepared 4 beds and I planted a second crop of broccoli (the spring crop didn’t do so well) in one bed and black beans in the other 3 beds

    One of the beds of black beans starting to sprout!
    One of the beds of black beans starting to sprout!
  • I harvested some corn for dinner-it was delicious!  It’s a white variety called Cloud Nine.  I got the seed from Gurney’s
  • started some cucumbers in a brine for dill pickles.  These are different from the fermented cucumbers that I made (YouTube video coming soon!).  I thought they were great but John thought those still tasted too much like cucumbers and he is not a fan.  So I used the Ball Blue Book recipe for Brined Dills.  I have the 3 gallon crock full at the moment.  They should be ready to can in 2-3 weeks.

    Cucumbers with garlic and pickling spices in the crock weighted down by a plate to keep them under the brine.

The second part of our week was consumed with Dutch’s surgery.  If you follow us on Facebook then you know he had surgery for a torn ligament on Wednesday.  It’s pretty complicated surgery with strict precautions for several weeks after so we were making some changes to get the house ready for him.  An area rug on our hard wood floors to make it easier for him to get up and down, more baby gates to keep him confined in a small space and re-arranging furniture to make for easier movement when he is allowed up just to name a few.   He came home on Thursday and for the next 2 weeks he is only allowed out for 5 minute bathroom breaks but no other activity.  It’s been a challenge keeping our 135lb, high energy boy quiet but thanks to the meds it’s not been too bad.

First day home from the hospital.
First day home from the hospital.

Here’s what we hope to accomplish this next week:

  • ferment the beets we grew this year
  • make laundry soap powder
  • harvest the last of the cucumbers and pull up the plants
  • harvest green beans
  • continue planting fall garden veggies-kale, spinach, lettuce and kidney beans
  • harvest the rest of the corn and pull up the plants
  • John is looking forward to trying out his new propane weed torch to take care of some of the more stubborn weeds he deals with this time of year
  • take Dutch to have his stitches out.  He also has a physical therapy consult as well

So there you have it.  What we’ve done and what we hope to do in the coming week.  What have you accomplished in the past week or hope to accomplish in the coming week?  Let us know!

The little things I do each week to save money

It might not seem like a big deal to some folks but I’ve learned that the little things we do on a daily basis really do make a difference.  Here is a list of some of the things we do (or try to do!) on a regular basis to save money:

-Dry laundry outside on the line, weather permitting, or hang it on racks inside to dry.  This not only saves money on electricity but also adds needed humidity during the winter months.

-We usually turn our oil burning furnace off in April.  We have an electric hot water heater so the furnace is not needed during the warm months.  It usually gets turned back on sometime in October. So far this winter we have no yet had to turn it on again.  Earlier this year we purchased 2 cords of hardwood for $400 delivered to add to the cord we had leftover from last year.   We have been using our zero clearance fireplace and a couple of small electric space heaters to heat the house.  It can get up to 82 degrees in the main rooms and 65-68 in the other rooms which is comfortable for us.  We would have spent well over $1000 on oil by this time if we were relying on it for heat.   And we have had average lows of 25-35 degrees and highs of 35-45 degrees.

-I cut my own hair.  I work outside the home so I need to look professional.  As I’m sure you know hair care can cost a bundle.  I found a video on YouTube that shows how to cut your own, simple layered cut at home!  I was a bit nervous at first but figured what’s there to loose?  If I mess it up I’ll just go to the salon to get it fixed.  If it turns out then I’ve saved at least $25!  Well, my awesome husband (AH) likes my home cut better than any that I’ve had professionally done in the 24 years we’ve been together!

The Garden Can Be A Dangerous Place!

`This week I discovered what a dangerous place the garden can be! I’ve had my fair share of minor injuries and accidents while gardening but what happened this past week was a first.

As is usual for me, I was taking a walk in the garden after work to wind down and refocus after a long day. I decided that I would pull out the spent corn stalks so the I could get the bed fertilized and prepared for the Fall. It is important to note that I never wear garden gloves. I used to tell myself that it is because I like to feel the dirt on my hands and there is some truth to that. I don’t mind getting my hands dirty. But the real reason is that I have never been able to find gloves that fit right and are heavy enough to give me any significant protection. So I just don’t wear them.

I started pulling the stalks. I was on the third or fourth stalk when I felt a sharp sting in my hand. The sting was in the fleshy part of my palm between my thumb and wrist. I thought it must have been a spider but could not find any sign of what it actually was that bit me. I wasn’t too mad as spiders are very welcome in the garden. But I didn’t see a web and could and saw what it was that bit me. All I know is that within a few seconds I was feeling intense pain in my hand which was radiating up my wrist and arm as well as swelling in my hand.  By this time I was also able to identify several small puncture like wounds on my palm.  Fearing that things might get worse I had John take me to the emergency walk in clinic.  The PA there gave me a prescription for some prednisone and instructions to take Benedryl which did the trick.

A few days later I was back in the garden when I came upon these little creatures


This, my friends is the caterpillar of the IO moth and they STING!  It was camouflaged so well that I never saw it!  The moths that they morph into are quite beautiful but they can wreak havoc on a garden, so if they show up again next year they will have to go!

So, I’ve decided it’s time for some gloves.  I’m going to try these

My husband has the men’s version, which I tried, and found them to be really close to what I am looking for in a glove.  So I’ve ordered the women’s gloves and will report back how they work out for me.  I don’t ever want to get stung by one of those beasts again!

Be careful out there!


Adventures in Gardening 2015

I can’t believe it’s the middle of August already! Seems like it was just weeks ago that we were starting the Spring garden. And now the Summer garden in winding down for the season. Both gardens provided us with good harvests as well as some surprises.

Good surprises:

1. We had 12 volunteer tomato plants come up in various raised beds. Funny thing is that they came up in beds in which I’ve never planted tomatoes!

2. I decided to try some cauliflower this year. I purchased 9 plants from the local Southern States for $3.50. They did beautifully and we harvested 8 heads! At $3.99 a head at the grocery store around these parts I’d say my $3.50 investment for 9 plants paid off!

3. The cucumbers would not stop! I usually have to battle the squash vine borers that love cucumbers as well, but not this year. I was whining to John “please make it stop” every time I’d go out to harvest. We ended up with plenty for fresh eating in salads, 14 pints of dill pickles, 7 pints of cucumber relish and enough left for more fresh eating and giving away to friends and neighbors.

4. I’ve never had much success growing cilantro. It’s not my favorite herb but I use it in our canned salsa as well as fresh.  This year I, literally, just tossed some seeds in one of the herb beds and forgot about it.  I ended up with a beautiful cilantro harvest

5.  We had the BEST sweet corn harvest ever!  Corn is another crop that has never done well for me.  This year I planted a small stand in one of the 4×6 raised beds.  This happens to be the same bed that we had the chicken run over last Summer.  Looks like all that fertilizer gave the corn just want it needed because it was fantastic!  It’s called Cloud Nine from Gurney’s.  It’s a white variety and is delish!!

Not so good surprises:

1.  The broccoli didn’t do well.  I started the plants inside as I always do, but they just didn’t look as healthy as they have in the past.  I’m not sure what went wrong but they did not produce much at all.

2.  The tomatoes have taken forever to turn red this year.  I’m usually canning tomato products by now but this year I’ll still waiting for enough of them to ripen. So, with more good than bad surprises, I guess it has been a good garden season so far.

With  the Summer harvest coming to a close  I guess  it’s time to get to work on the Fall garden.  More about that later!  I’d like to hear about your garden surprises so far this season!

Welcome to our little suburban homestead!

My name is Melissa and I’m so glad you’ve found my blog!  It is my hope that this blog can be a place where folks who desire to live a more self-sufficient, simple and frugal life can exchange ideas and learn from one another.


John & Melissa

I’ve been married for 22 years to my awesome husband and best friend, John.  We live in a small town and one day hope to have a home in the country with some land.  Until then, we do what we can with what we have.  Thankfully our town has a strong agricultural history and continues to value the importance of self-sufficiency.  The town codes actually allow for the keeping of livestock within the town limits as long as there is enough room, proper fencing and the animals are well kept.  People keep goats, rabbits, chickens and one family even has a cow.


Our little suburban homestead is about a half acre in size.  We currently have a fairly large garden, a couple of fruit trees and 5 laying hens.  We hope to add more garden space, ducks and honeybees eventually.  Oh, and I forgot to mention that we both have full time jobs away from the home.



September 11, 2001 showed me how fragile life is and how things can change in a minute. Then,  a few years ago we began to see more changes.  The housing bubble burst, some people lost their retirement funds others lost their jobs.  Still today, despite what we are being told, the economy is not good and there are terrorists who want to kill us.  John and I began to feel more and more impressed that we needed to do what we could to take care of ourselves and help others.  As so began our suburban homesteading adventure

I don’t claim to be an expert in homesteading.  As a matter of fact, some folks would take issue with my use of the word “homestead”.  But, to me, homesteading is more of a state of mind than an actual place.  It is our desire to be as self-sufficient as possible but we understand our current limitations and do our best to work  within   them.  So, if you too have the desire to do as much for yourself as possible and to live simply and frugally then you’ve come to the right place.  I look forward to having you join me in the journey!