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If you live in an area that gets a lot of rain, it’s considered to be a good idea if you save rainwater. One of the main reasons why you should do it is that its free water and you can use it for so many purposes. It’s considered to be beneficial for plants and crops in the garden, and you can use it for other household chores as well. Also, installing one can help you save on your utility bill, something that’s really important to almost every family living in urban areas. You can buy a rain barrel online, or any of your local home stores.

DIY Rain Barrel Installation

First things first, you’ll need to check your home for gutters where water overflows from and can be directed towards your little farm. When you’ve selected the prime location to set up your rain barrel, remember that it’ll need to be placed upon a raised surface. This should be at least 12 inches above the ground so that your barrel doesn’t sink into it.

Prep the area before you’re going to set it up because you’ll want to make sure that it’s stable. Since your rain barrel will be holding lots of gallons, it should be steady otherwise it can tip over. Using a level, check the ground to see if it’s aligned with the base of the barrel.

On the area, place a paver and put your cinderblocks on top of it so that they face each other. On top of the two cinderblocks, you’ll want to set up your other paver. This will make a nicely raised platform that will keep your rain barrel balanced and stable.

Now you’ll need to prepare your gutter spout so that it directs water into your rain barrel. Cut the bottom of your gutter pipe so it ends just above your barrel and attaches an elbow to the end so that water can move into the vessel without spilling anywhere.

To check if it’s working, pour water down the drain using a hose. To keep the rain barrel from moving or shifting while in place, secure it with weather-resistant straps to keep it connected to the house and safe from spilling.

Maintenance

It’s crucial to remember that a proper rain barrel won’t work effectively unless you’ve kept it in good shape. That’s why you’ll need to check the gutter and barrel for debris and leaves that could be clogging it up. Whenever you start using water from the rain barrel, remember to empty it out carefully before you can begin storing rainwater again.

After every time you empty it, it’s best that you make a habit of checking the barrel thoroughly for any leaks. Moreover, have a look at the overflow point to see whether water is flowing smoothly towards the garden and not onto someone else’s property. By keeping these tips in mind, you can keep your rain barrel system in perfect condition for every monsoon rain. Happy Farming!

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Oh, we are all about…




The Business Gal

Yes, the point of building a homestead is to be self-sufficient, healthier and live a good life that we can be proud of. And yes, somewhere along the way, I want it to be more of a business – making money from the land too. What can I say? My husband and I are also business people and have had very successful home-based businesses in the past, so why not use the skills we have to help the homestead along?

The business application: What skills do you have?

I had a home-based web design business. I LOVE web design. I went in head first and my heart has stayed there even to this day. But I had to let it go since running a (mostly) one-woman show took all of the time I had and more. I didn’t have the drive it takes to fully devote my entire life to it, since my life was about my family. So I do it for fun now.

And then there is the hubby’s business: construction. He is a general contractor that usually subs out any work that he can’t do himself. That was all fine and dandy until the day we decided to build our own home. I suddenly found myself an employer with employees. Wow! What a whirlwind of rules and regulations that was! I can now say that I am an authority on graciously firing numskulls, jumping through hoops for the Feds, and handing over payroll tax money without crying.

And speaking of taxes, I taught myself how to prepare our personal taxes and did them for several years. We used to have our taxes prepared by a professional until I got the bright idea to save money and volunteered to do them. “How hard could it be? We have Turbo Tax!” The hubby took over when I could no longer speak, only babble, come April 15th.

And finally, I used to manage an apartment building and still manage our rental home to this day. I know the California Tenant-Landlord Handbook like the back of my hand. I have a smart-looking suit and sensible shoes (ready to wear) for the moment I have to go to court on any problem that may arise. My management style is to the point, reasonable and most of all it’s fair.

Old Homestead Hideaway: Your lifestyle is your business?

So, with all of the above experience, why not continue to use it right? Seems logical to me. I can see myself sitting at a farmstand or selling our goods online or at the Farmers’ Market downtown. I can see us teaching others the how to’s of homesteading. But as with any business I know the importance of protecting yourself. I did a bit of homework and decided to create a “homestead”. Literally. The idea came to me because of my web design business. It was run under an LLC, which protects your personal assets and family from a business attack. For example, if you do business with someone who in turn decides to sue you, that person cannot include your home or personal assets in the lawsuit. So I started thinking of how I can protect all that we have put into our property from such attacks, because you never know what could happen! The problem I was having is that the business IS the personal asset. It turns out that the answer is to file your home as a homestead, turning it into something that has limited protection against a lawsuit, creditors and sometimes even the government itself. There are specific requirements that allow for a residence to be viewed as a homestead (primary dwelling, must have a fence, etc) which isn’t hard to meet. (varies from state to state)

If you decide to go for it, my best advice is to get a service like legalzoom.com to help you. While I saved money the first time around creating my LLC on my own, I felt waves a nausea come and go from all the ups and downs and ins and outs of starting it. I don’t have any problem asking (and paying) for help this time around. And they were happy to help – sending me every possible form I’d need to start the homestead and run it as a business. They will ask you to describe what you want, and this is where you have to be specific even if it sounds stupid. There are different requirements for every little thing, so you must have a clear description ready for them. I had no problem telling them what I envisioned for the future. In fact, I think one of the things I wrote came across as confrontational. (I may want to make glycerin soap and sell it, got a problem with that?) They took it like the professionals that they are.

Cost breakdown: Is all of it worth the trouble?

I have faith that running a homestead will eventually make up for the initial start-up costs. I liken it to making cheese. You can pay around $4 for a pound of cheese. If you buy cheesecloth (in bulk) and make your own cheese from cows milk (a gallon of milk costs around $3) you will eventually pay for the initial cost and then slowly start saving money. And there is a side bonus: The leftover whey can be used in other dishes and provides added health benefits as well. Now apply that to our homestead plan, where every investment will eventually be paid back and we may even have a few added bonuses to boot. (These do not include time/wages.)

Biodiesel

   » Investment:

$1,000 – $3,000 for biofuel production equipment, and $1,000 – $3,000 for two vehicles that run on diesel (after selling our current vehicles)

   » Immediate benefit:

Paying about .80¢ per gallon instead of $3.60 (average in California)

   » Investment return:

Paid for in about two years (only one if we already had diesel cars!)

   » Bonus:

The byproduct of biodiesel is glycerin… so we’ll be making soap and/or adding it to the garden for free

Kitchen and Market Gardens

   » Investment:

About $2,500 in setup costs which includes compost, misc gardening tools and travel expenses when gathering the trees used to make raised beds

$400-$500 for a greenhouse and supplies for starting seed.

About $1,500 paid out to a laborer for help during the heaviest work months. (setup only, about 5 hours per day for a total of 30 days)

About $500 for seed/garlic (first year only)

   » Immediate benefit:

Knowing where our food comes from, gaining control over our health and well-being and eating organic, heirloom varieties not available anywhere else

   » Investment return:

 (Future) projected profit for selling at the farmers markets is $2,500 a month. (weekends only, spring to fall only) Initial investment should be returned the first summer after established at the markets (does not include heavy equipment, see below)

   » Bonus:

 Compost will be free thereafter

 

(working on the numbers, but you get the idea)

 

Livestock

» Investment:
» Immediate benefit:
» Investment return:
» Bonus:

Energy Production

» Investment:
» Immediate benefit:
» Investment return:
» Bonus:

Machinery

» Investment:
» Immediate benefit:
» Investment return:
» Bonus:

Homemade Goods

» Investment:
» Immediate benefit:
» Investment return:
» Bonus:

Business Startup

» Investment:
» Immediate benefit:
» Investment return:
» Bonus:

Selling: Using an old-fashioned business model.

When someone tells you they run their own business you might picture them renting a large building, hiring employees, buying wholesale products for retail sales (or creating a product at high costs and high sales rates), and tearing their hair out trying to hold it all together. (That poor soul! Ruining a perfectly good head of hair.) But do you ever think about the guy on the corner selling children’s wagons he hand-crafted himself? What about the woman at the neighborhood flea market that is surrounded by her own expertly sewn quilts and knitted socks? In my opinion, these people have a leg up on how to run a business, because they’ve cut out all the red tape that many believe to be necessary in life. It’s like the two (very different) homes my family has lived in: One was modest and needed repair but we were happy to be together, and the other looked like it came right out of a magazine but we would have to work ourselves to death to keep it. Which one is worth the trouble? Yep, you know the answer. I’d like to keep my hair please. I plan to use what I have to make what we need. And that includes experience, skills and of course, my own two hands.


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