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Book Review– Creating Your Off-Grid Homestead: Radical Inspiration and Practical Advice by Terri Page

This is just one of the amazing reads found in this year’s Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle!  Here’s what I thought about Terri Page’s book, Creating Your Off-Grid Homestead: Radical Inspiration and Practical Advice.

Creating Your Off-Grid Homestead by Teri Page of Homestead-Honey.com

If you’ve read my book La Yacata Revolution, you may already know that being off-grid homesteaders was not our plan. Things just worked out that way and I can’t say that we’ve had many regrets because of it.

Mostly we didn’t want to be off-grid homesteaders because of our preconceived notions of the hardships, cost, and feasibility. Reading articles, watching DIY videos, and researching options made it seem incredibly overwhelming.

That’s why I loved Terri Page’s off-grid homesteading story. She made homesteading seem accessible to everyone without mincing words about the hard parts. As you’ll see, some of her story mirrors ours!

She and her husband built a tiny house in Missouri. (My husband built ours and Mexico has a far better climate). They use rainwater for most drinking, cooking and personal hygiene needs but also have access to a pond. (Water is our biggest challenge living in La Yacata.) They cook using a combination of woodstove, propane burners and solar cookers. (We cook in a very similar manner.) and have no refrigerator (just like us). They do have a root cellar to keep food longer and in in Missouri this is a great option. No so much for Mexico. After living without any electricity for a year and a half, they set up a solar electricity system for their house. (We lived 11 years without any electricity and have recently installed a small solar system ourselves.) Laundry is sometimes hand scrubbed and wrung out, sometimes is done at a laundromat 12 miles away. I can’t imagine scrubbing in the midst of a Missouri winter, so that’s understandable. (We have hand washed for years and not so long ago purchased our first washer in Mexico.) And they have animals! Terri and her family raise chickens, ducks, bees, cows, sheep, goats, and pigs. (You can read about our animal homesteading efforts in Wascally Wabbits and Zombie Babies. We’ve never kept bees.)

In addition to creating this off-grid lifestyle, which sometimes meant living in tents and hauling buckets of poo, they are raising two children, (We only have one.), running an Etsy shop, teaching homesteading ecourses (I teach English) and blogs at Homestead Honey. (Obviously, I blog too!)

At the end of each section, Terri has a list of questions for you to think about when considering off-grid living. To give you a better idea what I mean, here are the questions after the electricity chapter:

  • Is solar electricity the best option for your homestead?
  • Have you considered other alternative energy sources such as wind power or micro-hydro?
  • Do you have adequate southern exposure for solar electricity?
  • Do you plan to be grid-tied or completely off-grid?
  • What is your budget?
  • Can you purchase a small system now and add to it later?
  • Are rebates or credits available in your area to help you with the initial investment?
  • Who will do the installation?

Of course, each off-grid life will be as unique as the individuals creating it, so there’s not a lot of explicit how-to sections in this book. Rather, Terri highlights the things that have worked for them and talks about the things that didn’t work out so well so that you can learn from her family’s efforts, much like I try to do.

So, if you are at all considering an off-grid homestead, you ought to check out Homestead Honey and see what useful tips you can learn as you make the transition.

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Selling Some Sheep

Since someone has decided to turn La Yacata into a post-apocalyptic wasteland by burning every single lot whether or not the owners gave permission, food for our herd/flock has been harder to find.  The goats are getting by because they eat quite a variety of plant stuff and are agile in their foraging abilities. The sheep, on the other hand, are finding good eats more difficult.

As rainy season doesn’t begin for another few months, my husband decided that some of the sheep needed to go in order to buy some food for the rest.  He went back and forth which should be sold, not really wanting to part with any of them. Finally, he decided the two newest additions would be sacrificed for the greater good.  Neither had names yet so we hadn’t gotten too attached.

The neighbor, who I call Best Buddy because he wants to do everything my husband does, also decided he was going to sell some sheep to buy some feed.  He wanted to sell 4.  So since my husband wanted to take them to Puruándiro, Michoacan to sell, he needed to get a “guia”, which is a permit for transporting animals.  He picked it up at the same place he registered the animals in January, the Asociacion Ganadera Local in Moroleon.  It cost 25 pesos.

 

Since Best Buddy couldn’t leave any earlier than 8 am, I had plenty of time to take my walk with Puppy and feed the cats.  Then we were off.

Just as we passed La Calera, a truck with some goats pulled alongside us and motioned for us to pull over.  Curious, we did. They wanted to know if we were off to sell the animals in Puruándiro. We were. They offered to buy them for 33 pesos a kilo right then and save us the trip. Best Buddy wasn’t too happy with the price.  He had been told that in Puruándiro he could get 36 pesos per kilo. I signaled to my husband that we should take the deal.  After all, we weren’t experienced in the whole buying and selling done in Puruándiro and odds were we’d actually get a smaller price without knowing the ins and outs of it all.

Finally, my husband suggested we go and weigh the animals in Cerano, the next town, and then decide.  There is a bascula (weighing machine) there. This bascula is the type you drive upon with the animals and get weighed.  Then you take the animals off and weigh the vehicle again. The difference is the weight of the animals. So we pulled in there and said hi to my husband’s cousin who runs it. However, Best Buddy wanted the animals to be weighed separately since they had two owners.

La bascula in Cerano

No problem.  We followed them into town and stopped next to a telephone post.  The guys pulled out a scale and hung the animals from it, one by one. One sheep weighted 52 kilos and the other was 20 kilos. 72 kilos at 33 pesos a kilo was enough to buy food that should last until the rainy season starts.  Interestingly enough,  macho sheep are sold for 40 pesos per kilo, 7 pesos more than females. Since we have more machos than we need at the moment, this little tidbit will be useful in the future.

With the prices agreed upon and the animals loaded into the other guys’ truck, we followed them up the road to the bank so they could make a withdrawal.  Of course, there was the chance that the truck would take off with the animals and we’d be left whistling Dixie, but that didn’t happen. It turns out that the guys were from Cerano and knew my husband’s family.  I have no doubt that they took their new acquisitions to Puruándiro and sold them for 36 pesos per kilo.

Since cash runs like water through my husband’s fingers, we went in search of pacas (bales) of alfalfa immediately. We drove towards Yuriria and came across some pacas in lines waiting for transport.  We stopped and my husband hopped out to ask the guy if they were for sale. He wasn’t in charge, but the owner was just up the road on the tractor. So that’s where we went. After some negotiation, the owner agreed to 100 pesos per paca (bale). For comparison, most pacas in Moroleon are running 120 pesos right now and increase the further into the dry season it is.  My husband and Best Buddy loaded the truck up.

 

But we weren’t done yet.  We headed to this little town called Monte de Los Juarez (the hill belonging to the Juarez family). There, Best Buddy did some heavy negotiation with the lady who runs the store for 2 turkeys for 500 pesos. So with a full truckload of pacas, 3 adults and 2 turkeys in the cab, we headed home.

Negotiation in process.

The next day, Best Buddy sold the turkeys he bought and our two that had stripped all our saplings bare in the course of an afternoon.  With more money in his hot little (or not so little) hands, my husband wanted to get some more pacas–this time rastrojo (corn stalk). We headed to the same area as yesterday but traveled further down the road.  Just past the town Juan Lucas, we saw a huge towering mound of pacas. We stopped and asked some guy walking down the road if he knew if those pacas were for sale. He said they were and hopped in the back of the truck to head to see the owner. After several whistles and shouts, the owner came to the door.  It’s not polite here to approach a door and knock. Whistling is proper protocol. Drives me nuts though. The owner hollered out that he’d be there in a moment.  He needed to put a shirt on.

Eventually, he came out and the men conferred and pulled at their chins a bit before the price was agreed upon–13 pesos per paca.  In Moroleon, the average rastrojo paca is 16 pesos. The hitchhiker and my husband loaded the truck up. My husband gave him algo pa’la soda (a tip) and we dropped him off at his house.

On the way home, we stopped at a roadside stand in Ozumbilla.  DELICIOUS! While we were eating, a man with an ice cream tricycle began to hoot and holler.  We looked over and he was gesturing down the road and at our truck. It seemed the man wasn’t able to talk, but he wanted us to be aware that the Federales were heading down the road.  There’s a great deal of suspicion against the police in small towns and not without reason. We didn’t have anywhere else to park the truck, so decided to wait it out. Sure enough, a convoy passed not 5 minutes later with the entire town along the side of the road to bear witness to their passing.

Lunch finished, we headed home. We now have enough feed to last us close enough to the rainy season.  Hooray!

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Zombie babies

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Zombie baby feeding frenzy!

So the triplets made it through the first few days of life, which is saying something about the superhuman efforts Papa Chivo put into them. Bottle feeding didn’t seem to give them enough nutrients, so my husband borrowed a wet-nurse goat.  Unfortunately, the zombies had voracious appetites and the wet-nurse goat could not keep up with the demand.

Big Mama was forced to supplement a bit but didn’t have so much milk since Fuzzy was quite a big girl.  Our 3 goats were pregnant but not lactating.  Caramela the sheep was also pregnant but she’s been pregnant since we bought her.  I wonder if she’ll ever give birth.

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Brown Mama and her lambs, Oreo and Cookie.

Drastic times call for drastic measures. In hopes of getting more milk, my husband traded Cottonball, the zombies’ mother, and Baby’s Mama for this big brown ball of fur which promptly spewed out Oreo and Cookie, the lastest sheep to grace our pastures.  Although delighted with these little black boys, the arrival of twins didn’t help the zombie feeding situation.

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Oreo on the left, Cookie on the right.

But with a little bit of milk here, and a little bit of milk there, and some 2 am bottle feedings, they made it to their second week birthday.  They followed my husband hither and yon, bleating like, well, like little lambs do.

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Skunkette next to Skunk, the macho sheep, and in from of Mary with fleece not quite as white as snow. Brown Mama is lying down with Cookie in the back.

Then in the blink of an eye, my husband traded the zombie babies for this striped skunk sheep.  The zombies went to live with a guy with grandkids to bottle feed them and a milk cow to provide milk.  So it seems we have again averted the apocalypse in La Yacata.

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Papa Chivo saves the day

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Even after Baby the Sheep’s untimely death, my husband carried on with his idea of switching from goats to sheep.  He came home one day with Big Mama, an enormous black-faced furry sheep which cost a pretty penny.  So now our herd was made up of 3 pregnant goats (Jirafe’s twin daughters and La Blanca), Baby’s mama, Big Mama, Caramela the sheep, and Skunk, the sheep macho.  

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Big Mama didn’t waste any time and within days gave birth to Fuzzy.  Fuzzy is a huge baby and naturally enough, very fuzzy.  I started to like the idea of sheep if it meant in May we could shear them and I’d have a bit of wool to make stuff with.  

Not satisfied with Fuzzy and Big Mama, my husband traded Buttercup for an even bigger sheep, Cottonball, and a smaller sheep, Mary, both of the woolly species. Cottonball also didn’t waste any time and that very evening went into labor.  

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Things didn’t go as smoothly for Cottonball.  After hours of labor, she was no closer to giving birth.  The Borrega guy (one of our neighbors) suggested an injection to help speed things along.  That helped, but the baby just couldn’t get out.  It was presenting rump-first.  So my husband became the midwife and inserted his hand to grab hold of the lamb.  Its neck was bent around, which was causing the hold-up.  After some more tugging, Peep came free, however, her neck was bent at an odd angle.  My husband thought maybe her neck was broken.  She was also very weak.  

But the proceedings weren’t finished yet.  A hand went in again and there was another baby presenting rump-first.  This one was smaller than Peep and seemed to have less of an issue with the neck.  Thus arrived Bo.  Bo and Peep were both girls.

Only things weren’t done yet.  Another rump-first lamb was having difficulty getting out.  So some more mid-wife intervention on the part of my husband and the Borrega guy and FINALLY Wuzzy was born.  Wuzzy was a boy and of the three the first one to stand and make his presence known.

By that time Cottonball was exhausted.  We weren’t sure Bo and Peep would make it through the night and there was still the risk of infection because of the assisted birth.  The next day we bought some penicillin for Cottonball and some dried milk for the babies.  Cottonball wasn’t interested in nursing any of the babies.  We considered trying to have Big Mama adopt at least Wuzzy, but he was a third of Fuzzy even though they were only 6 days apart in age.  

So bottle-feeding began while we waited to see if Cottonball would come around.  Wuzzy was the first in line at feeding time and would not be set aside until he was satisfied.  Peep was the loudest baa-er when hungry.  Her neck was still twisted but she could walk and carry on so, which made us think maybe her neck muscles were sprained and not broken and hope for recovery. She looked like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Bo wasn’t able to walk until the second day.  She didn’t carry on like Peep.  She didn’t insert herself for feedings like Wuzzy, but she was able to eat and walk.  We were hopeful.  

We also bought some selenium vitamins to give the lambs once they were 15 days old. Since we weren’t sure that Cottonball would feed them regularly, we wanted to give them at least a fighting chance.  Cottonball did improve the third day after birth, but she was very lax when responding to Peep’s hunger cries.  She seemed to allow Wuzzy to feed occasionally, but then he just wouldn’t take no for an answer.

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The third night, there was a gathering of coyotes outside our front door.  We think that there might have been a dead cow in the area that they had been feasting on.  Their howling woke my husband.  He sprung up and ran to the window to scare off the coyotes because “they were going to wake the babies.”  Papa Chivo in full form!

Cottonball made a slow recovery but never did get into the swing of motherhood when it came to the triplets.  My son took one look at them and said we needed to rename them Troll 1, Troll 2, and Troll 3.  They are not cute little sheep.  They are not glorious like Wuzzy.  They remind me of what zombie sheep might look like, gray and mottled.  Well, maybe they will spruce up after a while?  What do you think?

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