DIY Food Preservation

It’s no surprise to anyone that food costs are getting crazy. Over the past six months especially, I’ve heard many people talk about the scarcity of certain items or the costs being too high for their budget. Even the very basics, such as eggs, have become very expensive. I’ve watched the price of meat more than double in the past year alone.

Many families are looking at cutting their costs by planning to grow a garden. For some, this will be the first time. Others haven’t had a garden in many years. Now, it is becoming a necessity for a lot of families. The question is, what do you do with the harvest if you produce more than you can eat fresh?

I’ve spoken about the idea of preserving your harvest several times, both in the blog and in person. People are receptive to the idea, but they are uncertain about how to do it safely.

The National Center Food Preservation is a valuable website that teaches the basics. It is an USDA backed resource that shares all the latest information for all types of food perseveration methods. The basics are canning, freezing, and dehydration. On their website you will find all the information that you need to get started. In the canning section, for example, they talk extensively about the equipment, how to safely can various types of food, and shares recipes. I refer people to this website quite often. It teaches the difference between canning low and high acid foods. In other words, what items can be processed by using the water bath method and what requires a pressure canner. There are several subsections under the canning section that teach how to can meat, various vegetables, fruit, and beans.

In the section on freezing, you learn what needs to be blanched and what can be frozen straight from the harvest. One food that needs to be blanched is green beans. You need to put them in boiling water for a couple minutes, then into cold water before processing them. Blanching the vegetables prevents them from being tough and leathery when you defrost and cook them. The same is taught for items that will be dehydrated.

Another important lesson is learning which presentation method provides a better quality end product. One example is that zucchini gets mushy if pressure canner. They are better suited for freezing or dehydrating.

If you are looking into doing food preservation at home, check out the website. It may become a valuable resource to refer to as you take on this journey.

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Starting Sweet Potato Slips For Your Garden

Sweet potatoes are one of the easiest crops to quickly stock your pantry for winter. Depending on your region, you can get a yield of 3-5 lbs of sweet potatoes per plant. Unlike white potatoes that are grown from a sprouted seed potato, sweet potatoes are grown from rooted sprouts called slips.

On average, a single sweet potato will give you about 12 slips. I start by buying a few organic sweet potatoes when they are on sale. If you already have sweet potatoes in your pantry that are beginning to sprout, that’s a bonus!

The method that I use is to make a mini greenhouse using a foil baking pan with a clear lid. I poke drainage holes along the side of the foil pan near the bottom. Fill the pan about 2/3 full with a good planting mix or composted soil. Last the sweet potatoes on the soil and bury them halfway into the soil. Next, use a spray bottle to moisten the soil and cover with the lid. Place the pan at a sunny window. Keep the soil moist during the sprouting process.

As soon as the sprouts have grown and are close to reaching the lid, I remove the lid. Continue to grow the sprouts until they are about 5″-6″ tall. At this time, you can begin removing the sprouts. I keep trimming off the sprouts as they become tall enough.

At this point, you can either place the sprouts into water to allow them to grow roots or plant them into a seedling tray with potting mix to grow the roots. I typically use the water method, changing the water as needed to keep it clean. If using the soil method, keep the soil moist while growing the roots.

After about 2-3 weeks, your slips will have a healthy amount of roots. At this point, they are ready to plant into your garden. I’ve found that the total time of growing the slips takes about 4-6 weeks, depending on how warm they are while growing. For our area, I begin growing the slips in mid-February to be ready to plant in late March/early April when the temperature is warming up. I keep on hand some recycled 2 litter bottles to cover them in case we have a frost after planting.

Plant your sweet potatoes in a soil that will allow them to reach deep if using a raised bed. I prefer a raised bed at least 2 feet deep to allow the tubers to grow. You could even grow them in 5 gallon buckets with draining holes. Don’t crowd your plants. Crowding can affect the quality of sweet potato size and shape that you will have at harvest. I place a redwood cedar mulch around my plants to avoid pests. The mulch also helps hold the moisture in the soil on hot days.

I let the sweet potato plants grow until the plants begin to dry up in late August – September. Once the plant dies back, the tubers are ready to harvest. I adore the sweet potatoes in a cool, dry place until they garden off, just as you would a white potato. At that point, they are ready to put into a box or create for storage in your root cellar or basement, anywhere that will be cool and dry over winter.

Winter Project – Bedroom Renovation

Our home has one room that we’ve always used for storage. It is unheated and has been a bonus room for all these years. Our daughter has been asking if we could make that into a bedroom for her. This winter, she will finally get that room. We’ve put off doing the room in Warner weather due to the wasps that seem to find access to it. That will be one of the first issues that we tackle.

Currently, our son has the smallest bedroom in the house. With turning the 12×12 storage room into a larger bedroom for our daughter, we will switch up the bedrooms for everyone. Our bedroom is located next to the storage room. It’s the same size as the storage room. We’ve decided to give our son the room we’ve been using so that the kids will both be near each other. By giving him a larger room, we can set up a better sensory area for him as well. Functionally, it makes sense. The rooms are at the back of the house. With my husband having to wake up between 3:30- 4:00am to get ready for work, he will be able to do so without waking the kids. Right now, with my son’s room near the kitchen, he is easily awakened. Not necessarily a good thing at that early hour!

The storage room still has the old single pane windows that are original to the house. It also needs to be better insulated. Over the winter, we plan to open up the walls to insulate and replace the windows. We’ll be running new propane lines and adding a propane heater for the bedrooms. Currently, we don’t heat the bedroom my husband and I use. We both like sleeping in a cool room. In fact, I often use a small desk type fan unless the temperature is below 40°F. If the temps get really low, we simply add extra blankets. For the kids however, we want the propane heater.

For flooring, we will be placing rubber matting style material over the hardwood floors. We found some that will look like wood floors, but will insulate far better. Eventually, we will have the same flooring throughout the house.

We are all looking forward to the renovations. Our daughter has already chosen a dark purple color to paint her walls. She’s also looking at gothic styled wall tapestries and accents to decorate her room. She shares my love the gothic/medieval look, so her room will have that theme. One tapestry she is interested in looks like the interior of a castle. I found some lanterns that are made for candles that she loves. We will be putting into them some battery operated pillar candles.

Our son’s room will be more subtle in color for the walls. A portion of his room will be set up as a sensory area. I’m designing sensory boards to attach to one wall that will have textures, latches, and things he likes to fiddle with. A beanbag chair or cushion to flop onto as well. He prefers subtle lighting, such as fairy lights, in his room. Open shelves for storing his books, toys, and his hand drums will be a focus for him. If his things are not on open display, he tends to forget they are there. So, the open shelves are necessary.

Overall, it will be a busy winter. It’s a project that has been a long time coming. I’m actually looking forward to it. I’m hoping to be getting a 10×10 storage building set up to move everything into. I’m going to eventually have electricity in the building so that we can put laundry machines and hopefully a freezer in it as well. This will be a huge change to the homestead. We are still deciding on whether we will use public utilities or a wind turbine for the electricity to that building. We’re leaning more towards the public utilities though. This will allow us a more consistent power supply. The house itself will continue with the solar and wind power, which will keep the cost for electricity lower. Having the public utilities will lessen the need for the generator being used. We can charge up the batteries for the power tools in that storage building as well as have access for power tools that don’t use batteries.

DIY Window Quilts

Tomorrow, an arctic front is due to arrive. The weather reports claim that the wind chill will drop temperatures down as low as -10° or colder at night. Thinking about it, I decided to post one way we keep the house warmer.

Window Quilts have been used for generations. In pioneer times, in example, a quilt would be hung as a curtain or in doorways. Over the years, I’ve done the same thing. It’s mind boggling just how much cold air can slip in when you live in an older home. High ceilings are already an issue and if you have a crawlspace below your home, you definitely notice.

I use fleece for our window quilts. The fleece is more insulating than regular fabric. With quilt batting sandwiched between two layers of fleece, you end up with better insulation. I found that instead of buying the fleece at a fabric shop, I save money by simply using the inexpensive fleece throws.

A fleece throw is the perfect size for our tall windows. No cutting is required! I cut the quilt batting to fit a quarter inch smaller than the fleece on the side edges and bottom. At the top, the batting is 3 inches below the top of the fleece. This allows me to make a casing to slip a 1.5 inch diameter length of dowel or PVC pipe through for hanging the quilt.

To sew, layer the two fleece throws with the batting on top. I use warm and natural cotton batting. I find it far easier to work with when compared to the more fluffy battings. It washes well without degrading over time and clumping up. Sew the layers together with a half inch seam, leaving an opening for turning the quilt to the right side. Trim the corners to make the finished quilt lay flat. Once you’ve turned the quilt to the right side, tuck the opening’s edges inside one half inch and stitch closed. Fold the top edge over to form a 2.5 inch casing. Stitch in place. Using embroidery floss, I tie the quilt together to prevent any shifting of the batting and to give a finished look.

I cut the PVC pipe two inches longer than the width of the quilt. After I run it through the casing, I glue the little caps onto the pipe ends. This gives a more finished look. The caps also will help stabilize the positioning of the quilt.

I have 2 hooks that screw into the wall on both sides of the window. These look like oversized cup hooks. To hang the quilt, I just place the quilt into the hooks. I purposely positioned the hooks so that they are at the inside edge of the PVC pipe caps.

During the day, I roll up the quilts to let sunlight in. At night, or on extremely cold days, I unroll the quilt. Storing the quilts during summer, I roll them up and store them in a long “under the bed storage” type tote.

Some options for the fabric can be found at thrift stores. Buy old quilts, bedspreads, or heavy blankets. If you can find old woolen military blankets at a thrift store or army surplus, these are great as a substitute for the batting as well. I have two wool military blankets on my kitchen windows and they work great all by themselves. They prevent the cold coming in the windows without any issues.

To keep heat isolated in specific areas, I hang a quilt in the doorway. On bitterly cold nights, I’ve also hung a quilt to cover the front and back doors.

One key factor in using quilts is to keep as little space as possible between the quilt and the wall. Any gap will allow cold air to slip in around the quilt edges. This is why I chose to use the hooks. They have very minimal, if any, gap that could lessen the efficiency of the quilts.

When Deer Get Spunky

I have always loved watching wildlife. Years ago, I was a wildlife photographer. I would go out hiking and take pictures of the animals that I came across. Some of my favorite pictures were from trips to Yellowstone.

Deer are one type of animal that I especially have always enjoyed watching. In Montana, I would leave food out for them to enjoy in our yard during the winter. Some nights, I’d sit quietly outside and a doe would walk right up to me. I never tried to touch them even though they were close enough. I simply enjoyed their presence.

Last Saturday night, I was finally back to functioning form after my whole family getting the flu. Luckily, we recovered in time for my teenage daughter to go to her friend’s birthday gathering.

That night, on my way to pick her up, I was driving through the edge of the city near the friend’s home. Suddenly, a large deer decided to jump a fence and run across the road. It hit the driver’s door of my car, flipped sideways and also struck the back door. I was driving slow since I was on a city street at the time. The deer, while likely bruised, ran off.

My car ended up with both the driver’s side doors damaged and the side mirror busted. Luckily, it was mostly cosmetic damage and didn’t affect my ability to drive the car home. It sure shook me up though. I’ve never been in a situation like that. I’ve lived most of my life in rural areas with wildlife and never once hit a deer or other wildlife. I ended up with pain in my neck, shoulders and upper back once the shock and adrenaline wore off.

Overall, it was a lucky night. The deer was large enough that had it broken the window of the driver’s door, the injuries could have been bad. Since we have full coverage insurance, the car will soon be repaired with minimal cost to us. Both doors and the mirror will have to be replaced. I do feel horrible that the deer could have been hurt. The police that stopped to check on me went back to look for the deer but didn’t see it. I’m hoping that means it is no more than possibly bruised. I’d feel terrible if it had been hurt worse and wandered off.

I never thought that a car vs deer incident could happen within city limits. I guess it just goes to show that no matter where you live, odd things can happen. The police told me that there were a lot of deer that come into the city at night and accidents involving them are quite frequent.

That night had been misty rain with a little bit of fog rolling in. According to the officers, that was prime conditions.

Never take your surroundings for granted. Be aware that encounters with wildlife can happen anywhere.

Winding Down the Season

As I sit here writing, it’s raining outside. It’s a late night for me. We have a cold weather system coming through, so that means I’m tending the woodstove to keep everyone warm.

I took the chainsaw to a shop today to be serviced. It hasn’t been used for nearly two years, so definitely needs to be looked over. Having my husband working a local job now, he will be able to cut firewood for us instead of having to buy any. We still had about three ricks of firewood left over from last winter to give us a headstart this time.

Instead of all the busy work of the growing and harvest season, I’m now able to focus on other things. That is part of why I look forward to the autumn and winter seasons. It gives me a much needed break.

I’ve already begun making a list of garden seeds that I’ll need to purchase for spring. I’m still deciding on how large the garden will be next spring. I want to home can as much as possible. So, I’m looking at plant varieties that are heavy producers. A couple of things that I want to grow are old varieties that are hard to find. Those will definitely become plants that I’ll harvest seeds from. It seems that some heirloom plants are becoming very rare now. One example being a sweet potato squash. I love the flavor of it but it’s difficult to find seed resources for it. Another that I’ve grown years ago is a bushel gourd. The good is literally the size of a bushel basket. I grew them to turn into planters and storage baskets.

Another activity that is keeping me busy is crocheting. This is a typical thing during the “woodstove season”. At night, while trending the woodstove, I work on gifts that I’m making for Christmas. Tonight, I’m working on a baby blanket for one of my daughter’s youth group leaders. Next, I’ll be working on gifts for the kids.

I’ve ordered more supplies to make homemade lotion bars and some resin art. The reason is a fairly new medium that I’ve been working with. I already have a small collection of silicone molds to use. Today, I ordered a new one for making sets of crochet hooks. Most of the molds that I have are ones to use for gift making.

One new project that I’ve been planning is to make a multi level drying shelf that I can hang from a hook. This will be used for curing the resin projects. I’ll make a second one with screening material on the shelves to use for drying herbs.

The shelves are rather simple in design. I have the 12×12 wire mesh panels from an old storage cube shelving unit that we no longer have assembled. I’ll be adding an “S” hook on each corner of the panels. An 8″ length of chain attaches the shelves to the one above it. For hanging, I’ll have a 14″length of chain on each corner of the top shelf that will attach to a carbineer along with a large metal ring. The ring can be slipped onto the hook of a plant hanger. This will make the shelves customizable to any size simply by adding as many shelves as I need. To use the design for drying herbs, I’ll only need to lay a piece of screening material cut to fit the shelves.

By having the hanging shelves for curing the resin art, it will keep the projects level and contained in a small space. Having a limited amount of space in my home, this seems like a good option. Later, I may use longer lengths of chain between the shelves for curing the homemade soaps while in their molds.

I like the fact that the shelves will be a repurposing of the supplies that I have on hand. The only things that I need to buy is the chain and “S” hooks.

To support the resin molds, since they are so flexible, a piece of cardboard is all that will be needed on each shelf.

What projects are you planning or working on now that the busy growing and harvesting season is over?

Woodstove Safety – Disposing of Ashes

I hadn’t planned to post this but last night a situation came up. I realized that it was a perfect time to post about one aspect of woodstove Safety that people don’t talk about enough.

Having a woodstove as our primary heat source, we clean the ash from it at least once a day. Typically, my daughter or I will do the job. Last night, my husband took the task.

Just before going to bed, my husband cleaned the ash from the stove so that he could load it with firewood for the night. Before cleaning it out, he emptied the metal ash bucket. We have an old burn pit that we used to burn paper trash in. Because we are under a burn ban, we haven’t been using the pit recently.

My husband checked the ash bucket and it was cool to the touch and no red embers were seen. So, he carried the bucket to the burn pit to empty it. After cleaning out the woodstove and restocking it for the night, he went to bed. About 20 minutes later, while I was in the kitchen, I heard a sound outside. I went to look and found a fire in the burn pit and the flames were reaching nearby dry vegetation.

I awoke my husband and we were able to extinguish the fire with buckets of water. Luckily, I found the fire not long after it had started and there was no wind blowing. It was scary though. With all the dry vegetation, the fire could have easily spread and reached the house which was only about 10 feet from the edge of the fire.

What started the fire were hot embers hidden under the ash in the bucket he had dumped. This was an easy mistake to make. While the ash seemed to contain no hot coals or embers, they were present deep inside that ash.

One precaution that my daughter and I always take is to pour the ash into an old large metal wash tub. This allows the surface area of the ash to spread out and the hidden embers and coals can safely burn out. For some reason, likely because he was tired and not paying attention, my husband bypassed this precaution.

I usually allow the ash to sit in that wash tub a couple of days, storing it a couple of times a day to expose any embers and coals. Once fully cooled, the ash is safe to put into the garden beds or compost pile.

In olden times, when wood stoves and fireplaces were used for heat and cooking, our ancestors saved the coals. At night, hot embers and coals were raked into a pile. Ash would then be used to cover them. This was a process of banking the coals. The ash would prevent the hot coals from completely burning out. In the morning, the ash was removed and the coals were used to start a new fire.

To ensure safety, if you don’t use a large metal wash tub to cool the ash and hidden coals fully, or water over the ash and let it soak through. Once you empty the bucket of ash, douse it again with water. Stir the ash, just as you would a campfire. This will prevent any coals from causing a fire.

We were very lucky last night. I hadn’t gone to bed yet and had heard the crackling sound. There was no breeze or wind to spread the flames. We were able to act quickly and put the fire out.

I stayed up another hour and kept checking the area to make certain it didn’t catch again. As we tossed water on the flames, we also wet down the area around them. It was a stark reminder to us that precautions must always be taken. Never get complacent or be in a hurry. Take the appropriate measures to avoid accidents. Just one moment of overlooking the safety measures can result in a disaster.

Lessons From My Father

Throughout my youth and into my adult years, I was blessed to have a close relationship with my father. “Pap” and I spent a lot of time together. Often, on his days off from work, we would either be working alongside each other or simply hanging out. One of my favorite times were the late night conversations while playing a game of gin rummy.

“Pap”

Pap was born in 1923 in rural Ohio. His parents were sharecroppers working farms in Jefferson County in exchange for free housing. Grandpap also worked as a conductor on the old narrow gauge railroad out of Mingo Junction.

Having lived through the Great Depression, Pap learned all about making do with what you had. The lessons he learned during those years became ways that he taught me throughout my youth.

Pap loved growing a garden. On our 7 acre property, we always had a garden that was nearly a quarter acre wide and a full acre in length. We grew enough to not only feed our family for a year, but had plenty to jar up for Grandma and a widowed aunt who were unable to grow their own gardens. We also grew fruit trees and wild blackberry patches that we would harvest and jar up or freeze. Each year, we preserved the fruits as well as making jams and jelly to share between us all.

When Grandma’s peach trees were ready for harvesting, we’d make the 118 mile trek to her home and spend the days picking peaches and canning them. Grandma always made a huge pan of fresh peach cobbler or some pies while we were there as a treat. The Concord grapes in her grape arbor would be picked and canned up as juice.

I still remember hauling boxes of canning jars and supplies to her home on those trips. We’d do up enough for her and my aunt and then bring home cases of peaches for our own pantry as well.

Pap was a self proclaimed pack rat. In his workshop, he saved nails, screws, and bolts in old coffee cans. He always had a supply ready when a new project came along. It wasn’t often that he would have to make a trip to a hardware store to buy them. If an old shed was torn down, he would collect all the nails or screws to use again later. The wood was also stacked in the barn to be repurposed.

He was a master when it came to bartering. One example was when he gave a neighboring Amish family some deer meat in exchange for a bucket of honey combs. I still can recall putting the honeycombs into a large stock pot and melting it down. We’d skin off any debris as it melted. Once it was thoroughly cleaned and melted, we allowed it to cool. The beeswax floated to the top as it cooled. We saved the wax to be made into candles. The honey was placed into canning jars to store in our pantry.

Another barter Pap made was with a farmer. We had 6 acres of a clover and alfalfa mix hay. Pap gave the farmer all the hay in exchange for a side each of beef and pig when the farmer butchered in the autumn. That provided us with enough meat for nearly a year.

Overall, he lived by the adage, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”. Much of his perspective came from those years living in the Great Depression. He often told me stories about the ways his family survived during that time. Old clothing that was beyond repair was cut and made into quilts. A trip to a scrap yard brought home an old bicycle. He and his brother used that bike to hook up a generator which powered the family’s radio. Pap always thought outside of the box to find solutions for any problem that came up.

The lessons and skills that he taught me have become the backbone of my homestead. Most of the knowledge he shared has become a part of my life as a homesteader. The little tips he taught me in the garden had helped me to have larger yields at harvest. Saving seeds each season allows me to grow a garden without having to spend money purchasing seeds each year. It has allowed me to grow varieties of vegetables that were originally grown in that family garden decades ago. I have some seeds that are now hard to find except as GMO seeds. Those seeds that I’ve saved and continue to grow each year are among my most prized possessions.

The lessons that Pap taught me have gone beyond the basic homestead skills and are in essence survival skills that will serve me and my family for years to come. For this, I will be forever grateful to him.

Prepping for First Frost

It’s hard to believe that just a couple of days ago, or high temp was in the 90’s. Tonight, we are under our first freeze warning of the season. Tomorrow night will be even colder.

Over the weekend, we cleaned out the stove pipe and chimney. First, we built a small fire in the woodstove so that we could burn a creosote treatment log. Typically, we do this at the beginning and end of the cold weather seasons. Throughout the season, we add the creosote treatment crystals to the fire once a week to prevent any buildup.

I ordered a container of the stove blackening polish. The one that I use is made by Imperial and has a consistency similar to shoe polish. I polish the woodstove with it at the beginning and end of the season. It makes the woodstove look shiny and new. Throughout the season, I do spot treatments as needed. The polish absorbs into the cast iron of the stove. This prevents rust.

I check the gasket around the inside of the woodstove’s door to make sure it is still in good condition. The seams around the stovepipe are also checked for any smoke leaks as we burn a low fire. If a leak is found, we use a sealant made for stovepipes to fix it.

On our recent shopping trip, I bought fat sticks for starting the fires since I haven’t made any yet. Of the purchased for starters, those are our favorite type. A “clicker” lighter rounds out the supplies.

We have a good supply of firewood from last spring. We had cleared an area of trees and saplings to make a new parking area for our vehicles. Any of the wood that could be used for the stove was cut and stacked to dry out over summer. From the small trees, we ended up with 3 ricks of firewood. Over the weekend, a good amount of the firewood was stacked and tarped closer to the house.

Next, we will be covering all our windows with a clear, thick plastic to prevent cold air from seeping in. Having an old home, we have found that is a huge benefit during winter months. It keeps the cold out and holds in the heat from the stove. Instead of curtains, fleece is hung over the windows as well to insulate them. It’s surprising how much the fleece helps! In the olden days, our ancestors often used what they called window quilts for the same reason. They would hang a quilt across the window to keep the cold out and the heat in.

It was common to use quilts at door openings as well. This held the heat in the rooms. In winter, we do the same thing. The pantry has an open doorway without an actual door. By hanging a blanket there, the pantry stays cool throughout the winter. It actually is cold enough that we are able to use it for refrigeration all winter long. Nothing freezes in there, but will stay cold enough to even store fresh milk without spoilage.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be finishing a raised bed just for my garlic. Now that the temperatures are getting cooler, it is finally time to get the garlic cloves planted. They will remain dormant until spring. As soon as the ground starts to warm up in spring, the garlic will begin to grow.

With the harvest season at its end, we are going to be doing any maintenance needed on the garden beds. This will have them ready to go when spring arrives. It’s the last task needed for the garden season.

Alterative Lighting Ideas

It’s no secret that we use alternative lighting in our homestead. We have oil lamps throughout the main areas of the house. The kids have battery operated lanterns for their own use in the bedrooms and bathroom.

There are other easy ways that we use as well. One is the LED strip lights that have a USB plug. These are found on Amazon for a low cost. I strung the lights above doorways. A simple basket, such as the type used in a shower for holding a bar of soap is hung on the wall near the plug end of the light. We can place a power bank in the basket to give power to the light strip. Surprisingly, the LED lights are very bright.

The kids love having strings of fairy lights in the bedroom. These run off of AAA batteries. They light up the room at a nice ambient level that the kids prefer. I buy the batteries from Amazon. Purchasing their brand is the least cost. I typically buy them in quantities of 100 batteries in a bulk pack. These lights are the exact same type that I use on our small Christmas tree.

Oil lamps are the main light source in the communal areas of the house. I buy the lamp oil in gallon containers if I purchase the actual lamp oil. The cheapest fuel for them however is to buy kerosene. A 5 gallon kerosene can cost me about $26 to fill at the gas station. Any oil lamp can be used with kerosene. The only drawback is that some people say there is a slight odor. Personally, we’ve never noticed an odor from the kerosene. I grew up in a family that only used kerosene for the oil lamps. A major incentive for using it is that I pay the same amount for the 5 gallons of kerosene as it costs for only 1 gallon of the lamp oil.

There are an array of solar lanterns online that you can purchase. The major drawback we’ve experienced is that in winter, the lanterns don’t get enough time in the sun to charge fully. Days are shorter and much of the time the sky is overcast. So, the light from solar lanterns doesn’t last as long for us. Maybe it depends on the lantern you buy. We’ve tried several types and decided they aren’t worth it for daily use. I do have some that we keep just in case of emergency though.

Jar candles are another option. I always have a supply of them that I’ve made or purchased if on sale. These are great if you don’t need a lot of light. I save the candle scraps throughout the year. These are the small bits left over from pillar candles or the scrapings from cleaning out an old jar candle. Another resource for candle wax are thrift stores and yard sales. Quite often, I find candles that are unused or have been used only once. When I have enough, I melt it down and make a new candle in a recycled jar.

There are likely many other ways to use alternative lighting. These are just the ones we have chosen to use. Hopefully, they will give ideas to those new to off-grid life and for those simply needing ideas for times when a storm knocks the power out.