Connecting to the power grid was one of the worst decisions we’ve made on our homestead. This is the story of how we connected to the grid only to voluntarily choose to live with it off, and still operate our homestead independently. After nearly 5 years living completely off the grid, here’s how we came to find ourselves living off the grid, even with a grid connection.
Wasps can be difficult to trap, especially in the early summer when they’re just building their nests. That small spring population will quickly get out of control, one a nest becomes established and dozens of wasps hatch out.
Without wasp traps, out backyard becomes uninhabitable during the summer time. There are so many wasps hovering around the porch, door and garden that you cant take a step without walking into one.
One summer, the wasps built over 100 nests under our second story eves, well out of reach and impossible to knock down. With small children in the house, we’ve had trouble finding a natural wasp trap without harsh chemical pesticides. Wasp spray may be effective, but it’s not something you want all over your house, yard and porch. Besides that, it kills far more than wasps and lingers in the environment long after the wasps are gone.
Over the years we’ve tried many non-toxic wasp traps, and we’ve learned a lot about what makes an effective wasp trap.
A bachelor friend of mine wanted to help cook dinner, so I put him in charge of biscuits. He’d never baked in his life, and pasta is one of his most complicated meals. While I stirred and prepped other things, I walked him through the process. He’s pouring things into the bowl at my direction, and it became clear that he’d never actually encountered flour before.
At one point, he looks into the bowl and stares in amazement. “It’s just powders….you put these powders in the bowl and it makes biscuits…that’s amazing!” I thought about it, and that’s almost true. These were traditional scratch-made biscuits, with butter and milk, but it got me thinking.
You could make tasty real food biscuits with a just add water mix, except for the butter. That’s the tricky part…now made easy with powdered butter.
We’ve all heard the old adage about building a better mousetrap. “If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.” It turns out several people have built a better mousetrap, and there are plenty of great options on the market.
Spring on our homestead is mouse season. Most days we put out 5 mouse traps and catch 5 mice within hours. Somedays we manage to catch 6 mice in 5 traps, as two mice fight over the same bait. Needless to say, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to try out traps and find the most effective mousetrap.
When your own small row of backyard raspberries is bursting with fruit, you wonder why anyone would be willing to pay $5 per half-pint at the grocery store. If you’re anything like me, you might begin to think backyard PYO raspberries are a good way to make a little extra cash. With careful planning and a bit of luck, you might just be right.
When I started blogging, it seemed like nothing more than a creative outlet. I had no idea that it would one day allow me to quit my day job and spend my days frolicking in the garden and holding my children.
When my husband and I met, we both had soul-sucking jobs that left us exhausted and dreading the next day’s alarm. We dreamed of moving to land and finding a way to make money from our homestead. We could quit our day jobs and start living the life we’d always wanted.
I started my blog as a way to condense my thoughts. There were things I wanted to learn, and there’s no better way to learn something than teaching others. It turns out, lots of people wanted to learn the very same things that I did.
We’ve all seen them. Those huge listicles with ideas for making money on your homestead. A laundry list of things that could potentially bring in income, but mostly just a few dollars here or there. But what about real income?
I’m talking income that actually pays the bills and helps you live the life you want without taking up a lot of time.
How can you meaningfully contribute to your home economy while still living the life you love?
There’s a lot of nostalgia around maple syrup production, especially in Vermont. Much of the maple available these days is produced by large-scale farmers, with vacuum tubing systems and oil-fired boilers. Is there still a way to make a profit as a small scale maple producer?
In the next few years, we plan to add maple syrup to our farm products, so this topic is near and dear to our hearts.
Vermont, in particular, is well suited to this, boasting the highest per tap syrup yield in the US, an average of roughly 25% higher than other states in New England in 2014. Vermont produced a gallon of syrup for every 3.24 taps.
The downside to high production is a lower price. Vermont taps more than twice as many trees as any other state but has one of the lowest average per gallon prices (second only to Maine) at roughly $35/gal for bulk wholesale in the past few years. Retail, however, is much more lucrative. We’ve seen local prices consistently in the $50-$60/gal range.
A pig on the hoof is a far cry from cooked pork on your plate. Live weight transitions to hanging weight, then cut weight and finally to cooked yield. At each stage in the process, a little bit comes out, leaving you with only a small portion of the pig’s original size.
Calculating your yield before you harvest a pig is a bit like counting your eggs before they’re hatched. But unlike eggs, which will either hatch or not when their time comes, the time to harvest a pig is up to the farmer. How do you determine when to process a pig?
Determining when to process a pig has a lot to do with age, feed conversion, and your personal preference. How big an animal do you really want to handle? How much ham do you really need? I cant answer those questions, but I can help you figure out how much pork you have in your pasture on the hoof (no scale required).
How to Weigh a Pig with A String
The first step is to figure out how much your pig weights now. A local Vermont farmer the next town over figured out a remarkably accurate way to weigh a pig with a string. The string method uses the length of the pig from the head (just between the ears) to the base of the tail and the girth of the pig right (behind the front legs) to estimate the total live weight.
For measurements taken in inches, the equation is as follows:
Live Weight = (Length x Girth^2) / 400
We’ve used this method with several of our pigs and found it to be remarkably accurate.
Let us imagine we used that method, and the result was a 250 lb live pig.
Live Weight Compared to Hanging Weight of a Pig
How does live weight compare to hanging weight of a freshly processed pig?
Once the blood and viscera are removed, our 250 lb pig would lose about 70 lbs of viscera and blood in the transition from live weight to 180 lbs hot hanging weight (freshly processed). That’s an initial loss of 28% of the initial weight.
The pig carcass loses another 3% during chilling due to additional moisture loss, taking us down to roughly 175 lbs chilled hanging weight.
Hanging Weight Compared to Cut Weight
How much is the pork carcass going to yield in marketable cuts?
The chilled hanging weight still includes the head, trotters, tongue and other oddments which are generally not sold as commercial cuts. They’re all still useful, but their market price is near zero.
Removing the oddments takes you down to roughly 125 lbs cut weight or 50% of your initial live weight.
Cut Weight Compared to Cooked Weight for Pork
Cooking will take your final yield down still further. Per the USDA, cooked pork yields somewhere between 74 and 96% of the cut weight, depending on the cut and cooking method. On average, cooked meat will yield 80% of the cut weight. (The big exception is bacon, which yields roughly 30%.) That takes your cut weight of 125 lbs down to 100 lbs cooked yield on your plate.
Calculating the Weight of a Pig after Processing
So what if you processed your pig, and you know your total yield, but you’re curious how much that pig weighed on the hoof?
Using this process, we can extrapolate backward from cut weight to find out the approximate live weight of an animal. One of our home processed pigs yielded roughly 175 lbs of cut weight, that means her other weights were as follows:
Hot Hanging Weight: 252 lbs
Chilled Hanging Weight: 244 lbs
Cut Weight: 175 lbs
Cooked Yield: 140 lbs
Our 350 lb home harvested pig on the hoof landed on the plate at a total of 140 lbs.