Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Chuck Wagon Triangle Bell (or how to call your kids to dinner)

Chuck Wagon Triangle Bell (or how to call your kids to dinner)

Contrary to popular belief a LOT of kids are still be raised in areas where they can go outside after breakfast and not be seen til they get hungry for lunch. They’re playing in fields and haylofts, snuggling their ducklings, picking up games of softball and hide and seek and doing all the things a lot of us did when we were kids. Whether you see them after lunch might depend on the weather, whose mom or dad has the best afternoon snacks or whether the pool in town is open. And after supper, they’re outside again. But where are they when it’s time to come in for a shower and bedtime?

chuck wagon triangle bell

Kids! Dinner’s ready!

My brother slipped up once after my mother marched around the neighborhood looking for him. “I didn’t hear you the first three times you yelled,” he said. Oh was he ever in troubbbble. Mum didn’t know she needed the Chuck Wagon Triangle Bell.

When we moved out to the woods and 45 acres of land the area our kids played in grew by miles. There’s a stream a third of a mile from the house with great trout fishing, a pond just a hundred miles from the house, thousands of trees to climb…you get the picture. We can yell only so loud for long before we’re hoarse. Save your vocal cords for better things. You need a Chuck Wagon Triangle Bell.

The Chuck Wagon Triangle Bell is loud! Neighbors a quarter mile up the road can hear the bell when I stood on the back porch ringing in the kids. They’re grown and gone now but the bell is still out there from spring through fall. When my husband is out of sight I can ring the bell and he knows it’s time for supper or there’s something he needs to attend to. He rings it when I’m away from the house.

Spring’s here! Try the triangle bell. It’ll carry further than your voice!

Injury and Illness on the Homestead

Injury and Illness on the Homestead

You’re fine one moment and the next you find yourself in a heap at the bottom of the cellar stairs. There’s a stomach bug going around and try as you might, the only thing you can accomplish for the next five days is sleep and maybe a shower. One minute you’re stacking hay and the next the hay is stacked onto of you. Injury and illness on the homestead are a fact of life.  Injury and illness on the homestead

Injury and illness on the homestead are scary thoughts . We try to be careful, especially when we live in a remote area or away from people, but accidents happen. We don’t plan on accidents but we can plan ahead of time for how we’ll deal with the consequences of injury and illness.

First Aid

Injury and Illness on the Homestead

Keep at least a basic First Aid Kit

Do you have a first aid kit? Everyone should have a small first aid kit with bandages, tweezers, and antibacterial soap. Please do follow the first aid kit link. It has a long list of items for injuries as well as illness. Adjust your kit accordingly. Injury and illness on the homestead

Frozen Meals

Chicken soup freezes well, and who doesn’t want a bowl of chicken soup when you’re not up to par. Soup, stew, cooked meats and vegetables – they all freeze well and are easy to warm up. Keep these meals simple. Simple allows kids and other busy adults to prepare a meal and eat well. If you’re the healthy person in a house full of sick people you’ll be busy enough without having to cook from scratch. After a while we’re usually willing to make whatever someone is willing to eat as their appetite returns. Having several frozen meals as options is a blessing.

Remember tv dinners? You can make them yourself with leftovers. Pie plates work well. You can freeze the entire meal in a pie plate covered in foil. Pull the meal from the freezer, pop it into the hot oven and rest while the meal warms.

Make sure your meds are refilled before you’re down to your last few doses. If you don’t let yourself get below a week’s worth of meds you’ll likely feel well enough to get to the pharmacy before you run out. Otherwise, give the person who’ll take care of your refills a few days to get to the pharmacy. Injury and illness on the homestead

Keep important phone numbers in an obvious place. Back in the day we kept phone numbers written on a piece of paper and taped to the wall beside the phone. Few of us have a phone on the wall these days. And of course, everyone who is old enough to use a phone (by age four) should know how to dial 911 and know when and when not to call 911.

Keep your cell phone with you if you’re at home alone or working away from people. You don’t want to sit at the bottom of the stairs without help, be unable to call someone when you are seriously ill, or unable to dial 911 when you’ve had an accident. Homesteading tends to push modern conveniences like cell phones off to the side but don’t dismiss this important tool.

Top 5 Homestead Gift Ideas

I know we’ve all be overwhelmed with Black Friday deals…. Cyber Monday deals… and too many commercials and ads!!!! We aren’t a big department store and just can not do the huge sales that they offer simply because we keep our price are as low as possible all year around!!

So… I’d like to share our top five gift ideas for this holiday season!

#5 – Aluminum Folding Cart

The Collapsable Cart that is Big on Hauling and Small on Storage! 

*Free Shipping to the Lower 48 States only! This Cart will not ship to other areas!

  • Folds easily for convenient storage
  • Weighs only 33 lbs., but can haul up to 330 lbs.
  • Completely rust and corrosion resistant
  • Sturdy Marine Grade all-aluminum construction
  • Made with pride in the U.S.A.
We have some great deals on these carts due to being a new item. Check out the many varieties of carts available!!!!
Now available from Homesteaders Supply, starter culture for fermenting your raw vegetables!

Perfect for use with the Pickle Pro Fermenting Lids!! 

  • Manufactured by Homesteader’s Supply in Chino Valley, Arizona!
  • Ferments Vegetables for perfect pickles, kraut and anything you can imagine!

#3 – Cheese Cloth Drying Rack

This traditional Bamboo Pasta Drying Rack is perfect for drying your cheese cloth as well as your fresh homemade pastas before cooking or storing.  No more hanging cheese cloth on the knobs of your kitchen cabinet!

  • Made of high grade Bamboo
  • Stands 16” tall and 14” wide
  • Includes 5 cross bars to create 10 hanging arms
  • Easy to assemble
  • Disassembles for easy storage

And what an easy way to also dry small dish towels!

 #2 – Cheese Making Kit for Colby and Cheddar Cheese

Cheese Making Kit for making Colby or Cheddar Cheeses exclusively from Homesteader’s Supply!
This kit is the real deal, all the supplies you need for making real cheese just like the professionals, and there is enough culture to keep you going in your cheesemaking for a long time. And, who better to buy from than a company that does make cheese and will answer your questions! 
Add your favorite spices to create a variety of your favorite cheeses,  such as chilli peppers, dill, chives, cilantro, garlic, roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, etc.  And with this same culture you can even make delicious fresh butter!

Most important because cheese making really is a science as well as a culinary art, we have added to this kit the best book called The Cheesemaker’s Manual by Margaret Morris. At Homesteader’s Supply Farm we have used many of the books available, but this one is great by far for an all around  how-to, and why, and trouble-shooting, along with photos to help.

This kit includes:

  • One Tome Mold and Follower
  • 2 slips of Vegetarian Rennet Tablets (20 tabs)
  • Mesophillic MA4002 culture  25 DCU
  • Natural Sea Salt
  • One Thermometer
  • 2 sq yard 90 count Butter Muslin Cloth
  • The Cheese Makers Manual by Margaret Morris



Ultimate Cheese Press

Newly released on the market! This Hardwood Cheese Press was made for home cheese makers, designed and manufactured by Homesteaders Supply right here in the USA!
Special Sale continues… We even add in some 90 count cheese cloth… all you need to provide is the cheese to press!

  • Perfect to make all types of hard and semi-hard cheeses.
  • Ergonomically designed handles and followers to reduce the stress to your hands and fingers.
  • Comes with 2 hoops, now larger and taller than other presses, to prepare a 1 lb to 5 lb cheese!
  • Designed to accept the hoops in perfect position every time!
  • Hoops are made of food grade heavy duty water pipe. Professional cheese makers prefer this type of hoop over the metal hoop type, as it won’t cause too fast of cooling the cheese during pressing time.
  • Made with all food grade materials, will last a very long time, sturdy hardwood with stainless steel fasteners that are made in the USA!.
  • Easy to use; small enough to just place it into baking pan to allow for draining… therefore no mess, no fuss…
  • Finished wood with all natural 100% Tung Oil, no odor, no petro-chemicals, FDA approved for food contact… makes the wood water proof, will not turn rancid. We use real wood, not plastic.. latest research confirms that wood inhibits bacterial growth, which is not the case for plastics such as melamine. Now you know why everyone is going back to butcher block cutting boards!
 All of us from Homesteader’s Supply wish each and every one of you a Happy Holiday Season no matter your faith or celebration!!!

Happy Holidays!

Preparing For A New Winter!

The trees are turning, revealing amazing fall colors of reds, yellows, pinks, oranges and browns… the garden survived the first frost and is winding down production. We built up the box stalls in the barn to ensure that the cow and horse had a warm and dry place to bed down at night. The days of fall are getting colder and shorter.
We’ve been in Wisconsin for about three months now and it’s already time to start planning for the coming winter months. We talked about what it is we’ll need to get done before winter and I realized, as the discussion went on, how different the climate in Wisconsin will be from that of Arizona. In Arizona, we’d get snow… sometimes at least a foot in a good overnight storm, but it would typically melt off in a day or so and while it was cool outside, it was rarely bitter cold. I am thinking that those mild winter days are behind me with the move to Wisconsin! So, today’s blog will toss around our winter planning ideas and I would encourage hearing from all of you on how you’re planning for your winter months.

130 bales of 2 string hay plus the loose pile

First item on our list was to ensure a good food supply for Do and Cookie cow. We did end up finding a great resource for hay. We purchased about 100 bales of Alf-Alfa and about 30 bales of grass hay.We hadn’t been here long enough to find a resource for used pallets… so for this year we used two 12′ x 5′ corral panels as an air gap beneath the pile. I am hoping it is enough to keep it from molding. So far, the bales we’ve fed have been lush and green with zero mold smell or evidence of too much moisture. We did stack this in the corner of the 30 x 60 pole barn / garage. One thing completed on our list!!
Today’s big task is to go through the barn and garage to pull out anything that can’t tolerate freezing temperatures! I use Espree Aloe Herbal Fly Repellent on the cow and horse… this doesn’t tolerate freezing well so I’ve made a livestock shelf in the basement for this and other items I’ll pull from the tack room. Ivomec, Blu Kote, etc… Really, any liquid items in your tack room should be pulled for the winter months to avoid container splitting or reducing the effectiveness of the product.
Tack was another question that popped into my mind, though from what I’ve read on many forums, a good oiling in the fall and covering your tack will keep it safe from damage through the cold months.

Heated auto fill  water source

Water sources for Cookie and Do are another consideration for the Wisconsin winters. We have a heated water source. It’s an auto fill, tied directly to the well, and has a heater inside the housing to keep the water from freezing. While I am comfortable with this, and love that it has access from front and back (though not visible in the picture)… I’m thinking I want a back up water source in the barn. In Arizona, I used  a large metal garbage can that I purchased specifically for a back up water source. I put a large rock in the bottom and set a submersible heating element on top of the rock. I used the rock just to create a larger heat source. We had temperatures in AZ that would dip to -9 degrees and this stayed at 40 degrees. As long as I can make sure that the furry kids have access to water, I’m happy!!!
So, in summary… the furry kids have a warm place to sleep for winter… plenty of food…. and a good water source. All items that can freeze have been removed from the tack room and into the heated basement. Tack has been oiled and covered for protection. Have I missed anything that you can think of???
Happy Homesteading and I hope you all are enjoying the hot cider and amazing fall colors!!!


Status on the Homesteader’s Supply Newsletter

I’ve had a few emails recently regarding the status of the Homesteader’s Supply Newsletter, so I thought perhaps I should just toss out a short note and explain why it stopped arriving in all of the subscribed inboxes…

Bottom line, it was expensive to keep the newsletter service up and running and please all of the readers!

I work full time… so Monday – Friday I am gone from the house for nine and a half hours a day… I also have a homestead of my own with Cookie to milk, livestock to feed, poop to rake up and water barrels to keep clean and filled. I am also a mom and have dinners to make and laundry to do, bills to pay… a household to keep up and running… and then there is Homesteader’s Supply. I work on the blog, keep the website safe from hackers as best I can, keep up with Google product changes (believe me – this is a HUGE task) and all the geeky stuff with regards to the store. The newsletter was that one thing too many and cost too much to just sit there untouched, so we decided to put that on hold for a while until we could dedicate time to it and figure out what people wanted in a newsletter.

I hope this explains what happened to the newsletter and hope you’ll continue to provide me ideas as to what topics you’d like to see on the blog or even covered in the newsletter once we get it back up and running…

Thank you to all of you who are a part of the Homesteader’s Supply community and…

Happy Homesteading!!!!!

Running a Small Business in Today’s Economy

There’s been an article circulating around on Facebook. I was sent the link by a friend and found the post to be on Bill C.’s Facebook page. I won’t put his last name on here out of respect for his privacy… or lack there of… it is Facebook.. LOL

The story is as follows…

“Christmas 2011 — Birth of a New Tradition
As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods — merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American labor. This year will be different. This year Americans will give the gift of genuine concern for other Americans. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift
giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by American hands. Yes there is!
It’s time to think outside the box, people….”

Reading this man’s thoughts on Christmas and buying locally, I got to thinking about what it means to buy locally and how being in business for yourself has changed over the years. When ever someone thinks of a business owner setting pricing for an item, the old 50% markup jumps into the mind, at least it has always jumped into my mind… that is until the Homesteader’s Supply endeavor came to life.

I always assumed that business owners made good profit on items, though I soon realized that any retail is a super competitive adventure. The “Mom and Pop” stores are a pretty good collection of folks… we talk often to others selling Homesteading products and share what’s working and what isn’t working, ask questions and offer advice. While we’re “competitors” we’re all just folks that homestead and want to share knowledge as much as we want to sell the great products we find. We have been doing this much more recently with the new push by Amazon to enter into any untouched market. By this I mean, they are seeking out manufacturers and wholesalers to carry products way beyond book, music, movies and the like. Recently the push has been on homesteading items and it’s really hit sales. Sales for us the last couple of months have been cut in half… we talked to others in our little niche and found their sales had tanked also.

When we dug into the WHY… we found that Amazon was selling items we sell for less than we can even purchase it for. Our little store doesn’t generate the volume that Amazon does and we can’t compete! All cards on the table, we make between 10 and 20% on our items and that doesn’t leave much wiggle room to cover expenses, let alone a payroll. Small business are really struggling on Main Street as well as Cyber Street… And while buying local is the big push, people’s pockets are hurting too and those few dollars saved are important. I get that, I really do. I just don’t know how small businesses will make it if the big box stores and the big box virtual stores keep under cutting everyone involved. There has to be a balance in there somewhere so everyone can compete.

What did we do??? We caved… like many other mom and pop cyber shops and put some of our custom created items on…. Amazon. We still have the store, but we have to flex with the times and figure out how to stay in business because the other option is to just close the doors and we have so much time, labor, love and money invested to just close the doors.

Now back to the story above…. the author who shared his thoughts talks of this very struggle, the struggle of small business owners to compete in a time of pricing wars and often… profit elimination. This can only go on for so long before more shops just close their doors and the owners try to reenter the labor market. So, this holiday season, if you have a chance to support a local business, a mom and pop cyber store… please do so knowing that they too are just trying to earn a living, trying to get by and trying to share a passion that they have for the items they sell.

I wish you all a safe and happy Holiday Season.

Nance Sparks
Homesteader’s Supply